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All trial participants allowed opportunity to be vaccinated

“Unblinded” participants know whether they received placebo
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 6:06 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - People who participated in Covid-19 vaccine trials are now being allowed the opportunity to be vaccinated...even if they originally received a placebo. It is an uncommon move by researchers who say the importance of vaccinating everyone possible means the way data is being collected has to change, researchers say the so-called “unblinding” of trial participants won’t hurt research going forward.

Double-blind studies are those where some participants receive a placebo and others receive a real vaccine. Researchers compare the results of everyone involved and, in the end, find out who received what. Currently, all companies involved in Covid-19 vaccine trials have begun allowing all participants to receive the real thing.

Many researchers encourage participants to get vaccinated. Participants like Wichita area nurse Sherrie Kelly, who also urges anyone who can get vaccinated to do so.

“For me it wasn’t any different than any other vaccine you know I get the flu shot every year,” Kelly said.

Kelly is part of the Moderna vaccine study and received her second dose in September.

“I wanted to give back and help in some way,” she explained. “It’s a double-blind study in the beginning so that means you don’t know whether you got the placebo or the actual vaccine.

In a double-blind study, the groups are compared, and the data compiled to determine the various effects of the vaccine on different people. The studies can last months, even years, before those results are revealed. That isn’t the case with this vaccine though, where the severity of the pandemic prompted researchers to make a big change, according to the Director for Clinical Research and assistant KU Wichita professor, Dr. Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt.

“We know, ethically, that we have something that we have early data saying that it’s safe and effective. We need to be able to get that out to the population,” Schwasinger-Schmidt said.

In a unique move, anyone who participated in a trial can now receive the actual vaccine. Initially concerning to some, but researchers say the data will still be collected and it will be accurate.

“No matter what people decide, whether they want to be unblinded or not, we still study all of them throughout the duration of the study, and I know a couple of our volunteers have asked to be unblinded for any number of reasons, and we’re still following them,” she added.

Participants like Sherrie Kelly encourage anyone else who took part in a trial to continue on with the study to get the vaccine if they can.

“There’s a lot of people in our society who can’t,” Kelly said. “And those of us who can, I feel like it’s important so that we can start to create that herd immunity.”

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