TORRENCE, Calif. — There is nobody who hates needles or shots more than Derek Claybourne, but his natural reaction to the fear of an injection is to laugh.
The retired Army specialist visited the Lundquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Wednesday morning for a physical and a booster shot, which are part of a local AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine trial.
What You Need To Know
- Army vet Derek Claybourne is part of a local AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine trial
- Claybourne is one of more than 200 volunteers enrolled in two separate UCLA AstraZeneca trial sites
- Claybourne said he trusts science and is encouraged by the early results
- "I do believe in God. I pray, and I really believe that I’m doing something for the greater good,” Claybourne said
"I wanted to help," said Claybourne. "We need a vaccine. We need something that’s going to give people comfort and help people get through this without having to end up on a ventilator."
Claybourne lives in Koreatown and has taken isolation very seriously. Thanksgiving this year means just another solo dinner at home.
"People want to get back to a normal way of life, and this is not normal." he said. "We’re meant to cohabitate, and this is just, this is just horrible."
Further, he rarely sees his family and when he does, they're suited and gloved up. What makes Claybourne grateful this year is knowing he’s not alone in his willingness to participate in an experimental vaccine trial. He is one of more than 200 volunteers enrolled in two separate UCLA AstraZeneca trial sites.
Dr. Raphael Landovitz, who specializes in infectious diseases, is one of the lead investigators at the UCLA Health site.
"I think we’ve all felt so helpless," said Dr. Landovitz. "The ability to be a part of something that’s trying to end this, that’s trying to make progress, trying to move things forward is for a lot of people taking back some measure of that control, and I feel very similarly."
Several COVID-19 vaccines have been in the headlines recently, most notably Pfizer and Moderna’s — both of which claim to have an efficacy around 95% in initial clinical studies.
Both vaccines employ a breakthrough messenger RNA (MRNA) technology that programs the body to create the coronavirus spike proteins that trigger an immune response.
However, AstraZeneca’s platform, called an adenovirus vector vaccine, has a longer safety history and is made of an attenuated chimpanzee virus.
"This chimpanzee adenovirus technology works similarly," said Dr. Landovitz. "It encodes this genetic material that the Pfizer and Modernavaccines are injecting naked, if you will, and it packages it in a virus that can’t reproduce itself in humans, so it’s just a more efficient way of getting that genetic material into cells."
Early clinical trial results from the U.K. and Brazil showed the vaccine appeared to be between 62 and 90% effective, but those results are being called into question over a manufacturing error that led to volunteers receiving different doses. Interestingly, the volunteers in the lower-dose group appeared to show more protection against the virus.
Results from the U.S. study will be delayed because the FDA paused the trial for more than a month after one of the participants in the U.K. trial developed a rare neurological condition.
As for Claybourne, he said he trusts science and is encouraged by the early results, even though members of his family do not feel as ready to trust in a new vaccine.
In fact, his family won't know he's a part of the AstraZeneca trial until they see him in this report.
"I can understand the fear," said Claybourne. "I can understand the distrust. I can really understand it. It is valid, however, for me, I pray. I do believe in God. I pray and I really believe that I’m doing something for the greater good."