NYC lawmaker playing guinea pig in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trial
ALBANY — Liberal Manhattan state Sen. Brad Hoylman is one of the thousands of Americans who enrolled in the moonshot trials to develop a safe coronavirus vaccine, leading to Pfizer’s bombshell COVID-19 shot announcement this week.
“I’ve always been a pro-vaccine policymaker, so I thought it’s time to ‘put your money where your mouth is’,” the 55-year-old Democrat told The Post.
Hoylman enrolled in the study in August — the pharmaceutical giant is conducting it with the NYU Langone hospital system — and got two shots after bloodwork showed he was negative for coronavirus antibodies.
The lawmaker has no idea if he received the vaccine or placebo, which is standard practice in experiments designed to investigate the effectiveness of vaccines and medications.
Either way, he is required to fill out an online diary weekly, reporting any symptoms or irregularities to clinicians.
The study will last for two years and Hoylman will return to the lab in February for another blood draw and analysis.
However, the early results publicized from the company have been so promising that health officials hope they can get approvals to begin distributing the vaccination to essential workers — like doctors and nurses — as early as the end of the year.
Pfizer shocked the world when it announced early Monday morning the vaccine it’s been developing for months along with BioNTech is more than 90 percent effective.
The news brought badly needed hope to the battle against COVID-19, which is infecting more than 100,000 Americans a day and has already killed nearly 240,000 Americans since the pandemic hit the country in March.
Placebo or vaccine — Hoylman told The Post that experienced some side effects in the early days after receiving the first shot, including headaches, though he acknowledged he is prone to migraines.
The symptoms grew worse with the second shot and included a fever, aches and a week of fatigue.
“It’s nothing serious, but you feel like you had a brush with the flu,” he said.
The lawmaker said he joined the study after hearing state and national “pushback” in news reports and on television connected to vaccine development — arguing while he trusts the trial process, scientists are still awaiting a final, foolproof product.
“It’s important to understand [the drug’s] safety and efficacy and that’s why I’m in this trial. I trust the medical professionals,” he said.
The local Pfizer trial has around 150 individuals enrolled currently according to Mark Mulligan, MD, the director of the NYU Langone Vaccine Center.
The center first got federal and state approvals last spring, giving them the green light to start back on May 4.
“It’s pretty amazing to see just six months after that that we are getting such positive results,” Mulligan told The Post in a phone interview.
“We’re in this medical emergency — a global pandemic — so we’ve been working very hard because we feel people are dying and we need to move very quickly. Normally, we don’t move with such speed, as most vaccines take five, 10 years or sometimes longer. But in just six months to have efficacy data is really extraordinary,” he said, adding he’s been conducting vaccine studies for 26 years now.
“As a physician and scientist, I’m interested in what the data says. We’re being very careful — although we’re moving very fast because of the emergency we’re not cutting any corners.
“Nearly 44,000 people have received the Pfizer vaccine so far, and the safety has been outstanding. I think people should feel confident that this is a safe vaccine. I think the safety is likely to hold and it’s going to be a safe vaccine. It’s all about the clinical research.”
NYU Langone is presently working on enrolling for a COVID-19 vaccine trial developed by British-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca, and hopes to get at least 1000 participants.
Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks
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