Skip to Content

DIGGING DEEPER: Fort Wayne man rolls up sleeve to be a COVID vaccine ‘test pilot’

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - What does it look like to be a vaccine 'test pilot' and why would anyone volunteer to do so?

The COVID-19 vaccine could deal a powerful blow to the virus.

It took thousands of people who were willing to test it. Some of those people were here in Indiana.

"There has been a real push to get these out quickly because of the global toll of this disease," said Dr. Matthew Sutter the Allen County Health Commissioner.

The spread of COVID-19 is at the top of health officials and many of the public's mind.

"There are several hundred thousand Americans who are dead to this disease and we don't really see an end in site without a safe and effective vaccine," said Dr. Sutter

Dr. Sutter says a vaccine is vital to curb the spread of the virus.

"They're an incredible public health tool that I think are under recognized. We know that vaccines work, but we need to test each one to make sure they are safe and that they are effective," said Dr. Sutter.

Testing a vaccine involves a trial, and with a trial, 'test pilots.'

"It is a gift when they do that. It is really helping science move forward and really helping our community," said Dr. Sutter.

A Fort Wayne man was among the first to take a chance to roll up his sleeve.

"There's a chance I could get it and help out the community," said Jesse Dominguez, who took part in the AstraZeneca vaccine trial.

"I thought I wasn't chosen. Next thing you know I get an email saying that they wanted me," said Dominguez.

So, what does it look like to be a test subject for a vaccine trial? Dominguez says it was like any doctor visit. He was screened, given a nasal swab for a COVID test, blood work, and paperwork.

The unknown, is something that might make others wary. "The odds are in my favor that I would get the vaccine. If it was the placebo then c'est la vie," said Dominguez.

It wasn't about the money for Dominguez. The trial paid him $100 to participate, he spent $80 of that just to get to and from Indianapolis. Dominguez says it was about helping the community.

Dr. Sutter says the AstraZeneca vaccine is different that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

"It's actually a virus. It uses a chimp adenovirus as a way to get genetic materials into cells to allow the body's immune system to fight off the SARS CoV-2 virus," said Dr. Sutter.

Dominguez says he doesn't think he got the placebo. He said, "I had a headache exactly 24 hours after. Then I slept all day, I was real fatigued."

AstraZeneca is behind the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in their trial phases, but Dr. Sutter says it has some benefits especially for global use.

Dr. Sutter adds there is a misconception that health experts are giving people COVID-19. He stresses, that's not the case.

He says they are using another virus, not found in humans, to get the genetic material into cells. Then it makes a specific protein that's found in the virus that causes COVID, and allows the body to recognize it and fight it off if you are exposed to it.

Author Profile Photo

Kaitlyn Kendall

Kaitlyn Kendall anchors ABC21 news at 5 and is the chief investigative reporter for the stations Digging Deeper team.

Skip to content