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Pfizer trial’s placebo volunteers tapped to receive real vaccine

Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 11:29 PM EST
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MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WWBT) - Now that the Pfizer vaccine is being made available to those most at risk, doctors at the Virginia Research Center - which is a phase-3 Pfizer vaccine trial site - is notifying volunteers who got the placebo to come back in and get the real thing.

The Pfizer vaccine trial is a double-blind study, meaning that neither the doctors nor the volunteers know if they are receiving the vaccine or a placebo.

Dr. Raymond Decker with the Virginia Research Center said this is so bias isn’t introduced that could affect the results of the trials or who it’s being given to.

“It’s not something we’re trying to project our bias in. We’re not trying to say this a good vaccine and it’s going to work. We get the data in and we know we can believe it,” Decker said.

Decker says because researchers know the vaccine is 95 percent effective and that it’s being distributed to those most at risk for COVID-19, like first responders and individuals in long term healthcare facilities, researchers at Pfizer are giving doctors at the Virginia Research Center the go-ahead to notify all volunteers who got the placebo and qualify for the first priority group to be given the real vaccine.

“If you got the placebo then we’re going to bring you back in and we’re going to give you the real vaccine, and then continue to follow along with you to see how long you have the antibodies and to see how long you are being protected from COVID-19,” Decker said.

The Research Center said a small handful of first responders who volunteered for the trials will be getting their vaccines in the coming days.

“We know it’s safe and we know it’s effective, so we want these people protected as well,” Decker said.

Decker adds that as more people become eligible to get the vaccine as it becomes more available, they will be reaching out to more volunteers who got the placebo so that they too can get the vaccine sooner.

“They’re going to make sure that they’re calling the people in the appropriate roll-out sequence to go ahead and un-blind them and bring them in for a crossover,” Decker said. “I’m very pleased with where we are, how we got here, and the speed at which we got here.”

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