‘I Was Prepared for Whatever Happens': Vaccine Trial Volunteer Talks Experience and Side Effects

The fact that she was over 65 years old and had an underlying health condition made her the perfect match for the trial, the woman said

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A California woman volunteering for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial said she wasn't afraid to offer herself up as a test subject, and never had second thoughts even after the side effects kicked in.

Debbie Honeycutt, 69, said she started feeling mild, flu-like symptoms after her second dose of the vaccine. The Scripps Ranch resident got her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in September.

"People who volunteer for trials do it because they see it being part of the solution," said Honeycutt, who's been living in Scripps Ranch more than 30 years. She's participated in at least six clinical trials.

"I have one underlying health condition and I'm over 65. I have a willingness to help,” explained Honeycutt.

Doctors have been trying to recruit people over the age of 65 with underlying conditions, making Honeycutt a perfect candidate. Honeycutt said she was prepared to participate despite the long list of warnings presented to her.

"Everything and anything can happen to you if you develop a reaction, but the trials are a way that are monitored so well that if something did go wrong, I'd have all the support I needed to deal with it," she said Honeycutt.

The day after receiving her second dose, she started feeling mild, flu-like symptoms.

"The next day I suddenly was getting the chills and I of course took my temperature as directed and it was 99.9. It went up to 100.1, so I just wrapped up and took it easy. It is a reaction that tells me perhaps I may have actually gotten the vaccine rather than the placebo," said Honeycutt. Honeycutt said she was required to log her symptoms for seven days, although she said she only felt ill for about half a day.

This comes after two well-known COVID-19 trials were put on pause. Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine developer reported an “unexplained illness” in one of its patients. Eli Lily halted its antibody trial in “an abundance of caution” after potential safety concerns. Last month AstraZeneca paused its vaccine trial, too, but Honeycutt said it doesn’t deter her.

"It tells me that it's working, the process works," explained Honeycutt.

Professor Greg Lemke, an Immunobioogist with Stalk Institute, said a pause on vaccine trials is common.

"The vaccine and the antibody drug trials are a little bit different, but with respect to the vaccines, pausing the vaccine trial is pretty common," said Lemke. "With respect to Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca, that paused earlier, the fact that these large companies are pausing the vaccine trials is a relatively reassuring thing. That means they are paying very close attention to this and that means when they have something at the end, they are prepared to supply the population. People can feel confident the vaccine is safe."

When asked how people respond to Honeycutt volunteering for an experimental medical treatment she said, “Most people's reactions have been, 'Wow! OK, great. Thanks!' So I'm encouraged," said Honeycutt.

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