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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.

Swine Flu Vaccine and Me

These questions were not on my mind as the "unblinded nurse" -- the only one in the clinic who knew what was in those syringes -- moved in on me with a needle.

I was wondering whether I looked braver and more nonchalant than I felt.

The nurse rolled up my sleeve. I felt the tiniest prick -- and then a click, as the newfangled retractable syringe she was using pulled the needle back under its cap. It didn't hurt a bit. Really.

Then she rolled up my other sleeve. This time the shot hurt a little more, probably because I involuntarily tensed my muscles just as the needle went in. But another click and it was over. Except for the wait.

The first "blinded" nurse came back in and started a timer. For 20 minutes, she explained how to work the digital thermometer she gave me and how to fill out a "memory aid" -- a chart asking me to rate various side effects such as pain, tenderness, fever, nausea, and body aches.

Alarmingly, I also got a 6-inch ruler to measure any rash or redness -- and a handy chart showing how to measure ugly blotches of sundry shapes.

When the 20 minutes was up,  I hadn't fainted or developed a polka dot complexion. My left arm was a little tender, but that was about it. I felt fine.

So what was in the syringes? I won't know for sure until the study ends.

I knew from the 12-page informed consent form that I'd probably just got a swine flu shot. A computer at the National Institutes of Health randomly assigned me to one of four treatment groups.

Basically, it means I had a 75% chance of getting a swine flu shot on day 0 and a 100% chance of getting it on day 21. By the end of the trial, after a single shot on day 42, I'll have received two swine flu shots, one seasonal flu shot, and two placebo shots in one combination or another.

What's going to happen? Stay tuned. I'll tell you how I'm doing, how the study is going, and what's happening as flu season draws near.


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