DALLAS - The first injections of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are underway in Dallas this week as part of a late phase trial.
This part of the study aims to see if people who are injected with the vaccine are significantly less likely to get the virus.
Rebeca Levy is one of the first people in Dallas to participate in Pfizer's vaccine trial. With one quick injection, the rest will be history. But Levy doesn't see it that way.
“I don't know if part of history, but, maybe, yeah,” she said.
Levy is the type of person the study needs. As a preschool teacher, she is on the frontlines of possible exposure.
“Surrounded by little ones all day long, that is why I think it is important to have the vaccine,” she said.
Dr. Mezgebe Berhe is leading the study at North Texas Infectious Disease Consultants.
“This is not once in 10 years, this is once in a century or hopefully longer,” he said. “And to be part of this is to be part of history.”
Unlike traditional vaccines that inject a dead or weak virus, this new type of vaccine is only injecting a type of code that prompts the cells to produce antibodies.
“Not giving you an infection. The best example is a fire drill. Why do a fire drill? To learn how to respond to a fire,” Dr. Berhe said. “When I give you a vaccine like this, training immune cells to learn how to produce proteins to learn how to protect it, and they do it very quickly.”
It is part of Operation Warp Speed, the government’s fast track effort to develop a safe, effective vaccine by the end of the year.
Dr. Berhe feels a responsibility to be part of a solution.
“On a personal level, I have a family,” he said. “They are going crazy because they are at home. And when they go out, they have to wear a mask.”
And with a study that needs 30,000 participants across the county, he says you don't have to be a doctor to help.
“Whether investigator or participant, you are changing the world,” said Dr. Berbhe.
Levy does not know if she received a placebo or the real thing, but she does know either way she will help researchers find information that could save lives.
“I feel it is a sense of community,” she said.
More volunteers are needed for the study.
Minorities and those working on the frontlines, like in grocery stores and schools, are needed the most.
Participants will receive a $120 stipend for each of their six doctor's office visits.
Anyone who is interested in the study is asked to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.