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Shot in the Arm: The Swine Flu Vaccine Trial

WebMD reporter Daniel DeNoon volunteers for an H1N1 swine flu vaccine study.

Day Two -- Saturday Aug. 15, 2009

I'm sitting on a hillside in Atlanta's Piedmont Park, surrounded by about 50,000 people. It's 6 p.m., and in just a couple of hours Paul McCartney will be on the huge stage erected nearly overnight in the meadow below me. My cell phone rings.

It's Becky Gerkin, one of the nurses at Emory's Hope Clinic. "Hi," she says. "Just checking to make sure you're OK."

I tell her my left arm is a little sore, but no other symptoms. In fact, I feel great.

I tell Becky that I've been taking my temperature every day at 4 p.m., and that it's been running about a half degree above what I think is normal for me, but never higher than 99 degrees F. I tell her where I am, that I've had a beer, and and that I hope it's OK to have a couple more.

Becky sighs. "Nothing in the protocol against that," she says.

Day Zero -- Thursday Aug. 13, 2009

It's really the first day, but they call it Day Zero. It sounds dramatic, and it is.

I'm sitting on the examining table. A nurse approaches with two syringes. Either one, or both, may hold the brand new swine flu vaccine. Brand new, as in "not yet tested in humans."

She rolls up my sleeve and takes aim at my arm.

Is it safe? That's what they're trying to find out. The previous nurse had read me a list of the many little things and big things that could go wrong. I could get a fever or a headache, for example. I could get a skin reaction.

Or something totally unexpected could happen -- who knows what? If something serious goes wrong, I'm reassured, they'll call 911. The helpful nurse points out the window at the hospital across the street.

"And our doctors have all kinds of emergency medications on hand," she says.

How did I get here?

The Race to Test Swine Flu Vaccine

One of my jobs at WebMD is to follow the H1N1 swine flu pandemic. And here's where we stand: It's a race.

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