Published on Dec 03, 2020

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JOHN WHYTE: Welcome, everyone. I'm Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD, and you're watching "Coronavirus in Context." Everyone's talking about the vaccine or vaccines, but what is it like to actually have received the vaccine? Today I'm going to talk to someone who's participated in a trial. My guest is Kelvin Phillips. Kelvin, thanks for joining me.

KELVIN PHILLIPS: Sure. Hi, John. How's it going?

JOHN WHYTE: Let's start off with, why did you decide to participate in a trial?

KELVIN PHILLIPS: I think it was September. They were sending news notifications out about looking for people to participate in trials, and I figured that the reason they were doing is because they wanted certain demographics. And it was particularly around Newark, and I realized that this is probably something I should look into. I imagine they're probably having some challenges finding people of color to readily participate in these trials for all kinds of reasons.

JOHN WHYTE: Did you feel you wanted to do it for the greater good, or was it you thought you might be able to get some protection for yourself? How did you balance different interests? Because let's be honest, you don't know how people are going to respond to a novel type of technology.

KELVIN PHILLIPS: Right. I thought-- I really wanted to do for the greater good. I think that it's important that these studies actually represent as many varied demographics as possible, as many types of people as possible. I'm obviously African-American, I'm over 50, and I have a comorbidity. I have high blood pressure that I take maintenance medication for. So I thought it would be useful if someone like me volunteered to participate.

Now, let me say, I sent a note and said, I'm interested, but then they actually did a screening process--

JOHN WHYTE: Sure, sure.

KELVIN PHILLIPS: --you have to get chosen.

JOHN WHYTE: Yeah. But we know it disproportionately impacts people of color. That factored into your decision-making, that you wanted to make sure that the vaccine we had good efficacy and safety data on people of color?

KELVIN PHILLIPS: Correct. I mean, there are communities, people of color communities getting hit much harder for lots of reasons early on and through even nowadays. And I thought it was important that the data actually-- through these trials actually represents those communities as well.

JOHN WHYTE: So tell us your experience. Do you got the vaccine or a placebo? Have they revealed that information yet?

KELVIN PHILLIPS: No. So it's a two-year study.

JOHN WHYTE: Two years?



KELVIN PHILLIPS: 25 months, two-year study. The beginning of October is when I went to the first screening, which was the longest process of them, pretty much interviewing me, going through my family history, my medical history, really kind of going through and actually just reading through all of the information about the vaccine, answering any questions that I had. It was about four hours of that.

And then from that they take you to another room where they give you a physical, a complete physical. They also do your vitals and then they take some blood from you-- a lot of blood, like eight vials of blood. And then they do a nasal swab of you as well, and then they give you the first shot. You don't know and they don't know if it's actually a placebo or if it's the vaccine. The only person who does know is the nurse who actually gives the shot.

So they gave me the first shot, and then you wait 30 minutes to see if you have any reaction to it. Then they take your vitals again, and then if you're good, then they release you. That was the first one, and then the next-- a month later you take the second shot, go through the same thing again of the physical, the vitals, the nasal swab, and then the second shot, which I just did three weeks ago. So then I have-- this coming Monday I have my third visit, and then there's a number of visits through the year, and then after the first year there's one final visit on the two-year mark where they just kind of close it all out.

JOHN WHYTE: Now, tell us how you've been feeling.

KELVIN PHILLIPS: I feel good. I mean, the only thing is, and this, who knows if this was because of all the blood they took the first time that I went. I was very fatigued when I got home from the first visit. I was extremely fatigued. It was very uncommon for me to feel like that. But then the second time, the second shot I got, I didn't feel anything. I felt fine.

JOHN WHYTE: Does your arm hurt at all after the shot? Some people have been saying that can be a side effect.

KELVIN PHILLIPS: It did not. In fact, what they do is they give you a thermometer and then they give the-- they load an app on your phone, and basically they ping you every day to take your temperature, to feel under your arm, to feel your arm where they proceeded with the shot and to make sure that everything is OK, and you just record that information and send it off to them. So nothing like that.

JOHN WHYTE: Now, how does it work? There's been some talk for those persons in the trial that were not randomized to get the vaccine, what will their opportunity be to get a vaccine? Have they talked at all about that?

KELVIN PHILLIPS: So I don't know, and I will ask them that next time I go there, is like, well, now they look like you're going to get FDA approval. Can you open-- can you unblind me because I actually had the vaccine. And I don't know where they are with that. They actually disclosed that they-- number one, I should add to anyone who's uncomfortable with partaking in any future trial or whatever, they were very clear that you can back out any time you want. You can-- the needle is right up on your arm, if you decide, I don't want to do it, you can walk away any step in the process. I could walk away today if I wanted to. So they're very clear about that. But they also let you know that they, too, can end the trial early if they see fit.

JOHN WHYTE: There's a lot of hesitancy about the vaccine, and as you know, at WebMD we've been surveying a lot of people that come to our site. More than half are saying they won't take it, certainly not within the first three months. We see that people of color are more skeptical than some other groups about a vaccine, especially since it seems to be going so fast. What do you say to those folks who are hesitant about getting the vaccine when it becomes available?

KELVIN PHILLIPS: Right. We-- speaking first about people of color, African-Americans, we have a history of being distrustful for right reasons. There's the famous Tuskegee study that everyone knows about, and how that went over 40 years of testing, and knowing that you have people in the study who have syphilis and you're just studying how it progresses over decades and not letting them know.

So there is that, and I have people in my family who are nervous about it, and people that I've told that I'm doing this, and they're like, why would you do that? But then I also have a lot of friends who were really encouraging of it. They said, that's actually a good thing to do.

What I'll say is that we live in-- this is-- we live in unprecedented times. We have to do what we have to do to get past this. I mean, it's just very scary. We're getting ready to go through a winter that, again, we're going to have some really challenging times. And we're in a good place, and that we do have a number of these vaccines that seem like they're going to be coming available sooner and not later. And that's actually really helpful. That's actually a good thing, and we should encourage that so that we can all get back to some kind of normal.

JOHN WHYTE: Did you have any concerns about the speed in which it seems it's all getting done, or was that a positive thing for you?

KELVIN PHILLIPS: I did a lot of research before deciding, ultimately, to do this, and one of the concerns was vaccines take decades to actually develop over time. I'm not a doctor like yourself, John, so I don't know how and why that is. However I'm also geekish and I also love digging into artificial intelligence and the way the world is trending and just how everything is going, and everything is moving faster.

So it's not necessarily-- it's not scary to me that we actually have the capability, the technology to actually develop things a lot faster. That's one of the benefits of working at a company like Medscape is to really know all the research that is happening, and say, for instance, ecology and so forth. So it didn't-- I'm not afraid of that. I trust-- I guess what I'm saying, John, is I trust the scientists to do the right thing, because--

JOHN WHYTE: It's good science, yeah.

KELVIN PHILLIPS: --it's that important globally.


KELVIN PHILLIPS: You've got to get it right on a global level, as opposed to just-- and we gotta get past is the point.

JOHN WHYTE: Do we need different messaging to minority communities to encourage vaccination?

KELVIN PHILLIPS: Well, so there was-- the day before the first screening I went to, there was actually-- this was actually sponsored by the study. They actually had researchers, doctors, social scientists of color in a panel inviting the entire community, anybody who wanted to be on this call to answer any questions. And basically what they were saying was that it's all about research. It's all available. You can go on the internet, you can read about these studies, you can read about how they're developing, where things stand, all of that is out there. And just you can empower yourself by just getting the knowledge yourself and making informed decisions.

That's what I would tell people is that it's all out there if you look for it and you read and you study, and then you don't have to necessarily listen to someone telling you something that might not be right information. You can actually get it yourself, which is what I did. And then that made me comfortable enough to actually go ahead.

JOHN WHYTE: Well, Kelvin, I want to thank you for sharing your story today and providing your insights and your experience to help others in their decision-making when a vaccine becomes authorized.

KELVIN PHILLIPS: Sure, John. It's been a pleasure.

JOHN WHYTE: And I want to thank our audience for watching. If you have questions about the vaccine or questions about testing, shoot them our way. You can send them to [email protected], and I'll be answering questions every Friday. So send us your questions and we'll see what we can do and do our best to answer them.