A 44-year-old Seattle mother of two who was the first healthy person to receive an experimental coronavirus vaccine compared the injection to a “regular flu shot” – but said signing up for the test carried “a ton of risks,” according to a report.
Jennifer Haller, an operations manager at a tech start-up, described to The Telegraph her decision to respond to a call-out on Facebook for volunteers to take part in the historic trial.
“Even at that time we were all feeling so helpless,” she told the UK news outlet while in self-isolation. “There was nothing I could do to stop this global pandemic. Then I saw this opportunity come up and thought: ‘Well, maybe there is something I can do to contribute.’”
Haller said the trial offered her a chance to be proactive amid the widening pandemic last month.
“It gave me some sense of control,” she told the news outlet. “We’re all so out of control and helpless. This just gave me something that I could hold on to that could be helpful.”
Despite Haller’s eagerness, her husband, relatives and friends expressed grave concerns as she underwent a battery of medical tests to be approved for the trial.
She and her husband had allowed their infant son to take part in some medical studies – but this was an entirely different matter, not the least of which was that participants were informed that they could be more vulnerable to catching COVID-19 afterward.
Haller tried to allay her loved ones’ fears by pointing out that she would not received any part of the novel virus itself in the vaccine, called mRNA-1273, which had shown promise after being tested on animals.
Jennifer Haller gets a kiss from her adopted foster dog, Meg.AP/Ted S. Warren
But this was the first time it would be given to a human so questions remained.
In the trial, run by Seattle’s Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, participants would receive two doses of the experimental vaccine 28 days apart, then a year of monitoring.
“There were a ton of risks involved. But I’m a real positive person and the benefits of this far outweighed any risks in my mind,” Haller said.
On March 16, she discovered she was to be the first person to receive the experimental vaccine when she showed up and saw The Associated Press, which had been invited for the launch.
Haller was unfazed when a man in a mask and blue gloves administered the shot in her left shoulder – but she admitted being “taken aback” when footage of her getting the vaccine was included in a new ad touting President Trump’s leadership during the pandemic.
Haller said her kids – 16-year-old son Hayden and 13-year-old daughter Ellison — thought her newfound fame was pretty cool.
Jennifer Haller and her children Hayden and EllieAP/Ted S. Warren
“They would report back to me how many TikTok views I would have and what’s on Reddit. They think it’s hilarious,” she said.
The courageous coronavirus guinea pig was asked to keep a daily log of any symptoms for two weeks.
“The first day I had a slightly elevated temperature,” she told the outlet. “The second day my arm was pretty sore. But that was it – everything was all right after that. It was as easy as a regular flu shot.”
Haller — who was joined by 44 other adults for the study — will receive her second dose next week and her monitoring won’t end until the spring of 2021.
She said she is confident that a successful vaccine for the deadly illness will emerge — whether from her trial or from others taking place around the globe.
“Whenever we get to the vaccine, whatever it ends up being, I will be proud to have been part of the process,” she said.
A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller the first shot in a clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine.
AP/Ted S. Warren
AP/Ted S. Warren
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