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Chicago Man Shares Experience of Participating In Moderna COVID Research

A Chicago man who has been participating in a research program for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine since September shared his experience with the vaccine trial.

“I feel very blessed to be part of the program,” said Clarence Dobbins, who is a research volunteer.

Dobbins was given a shot back in September as part of the “Moderna Vaccine Project” at the University of Illinois Hospital, though he still does not know if he received the actual vaccine or a placebo.

“I was just happy to feel like I was doing something positive in the world,” he said.

The Food and Drug Administration will meet Thursday to review Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization. According to new data released by the agency Tuesday, fatigue, headaches and muscle pain are the most common side effects from Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, along with some rare symptoms like intractable nausea or vomiting and facial swelling that are likely triggered by the shots.

Dobbins said he wanted to participate in the research after seeing the impact of the pandemic. He knows minorities have also been under represented in COVID-19 research and clinical trials.

“I was watching what was happening in the world and I was watching a program at night where there was an advertisement in way of asking for volunteers especially those from the black community,” he said.

Dobbins is now helping researchers track the longevity of the vaccine and any possible side effects, such as fatigue, headaches, and muscle pains.

“Me personally, my health has been great every week after the first shot,” he said.

In a report released on Tuesday, the FDA staff made a recommendation to monitor those who get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for possible cases of Bell’s Palsy. Three people who participated in the clinical trials for Moderna experienced paralysis and four participants for Pfizer. The FDA staff said it’s not necessarily a side effect and, based on data from the research, endorsed the Moderna vaccine for emergency use authorization.

Moderna's vaccine is more than 94% effective and safe enough to meet the agency's bar for emergency use, according to the report. But the regulatory agency's analysis noted that the vaccine is associated with common and unpleasant, but not necessarily dangerous side effects.

More than 9 in 10 participants who received the vaccine felt pain at the injection site, almost 7 in 10 felt fatigued and roughly 6 out of 10 had headaches or muscle pain, the FDA said.

The FDA said there were seven "serious adverse events" in the trial, but none of them were fatal. Four were attributed to the vaccine by trial investigators and Moderna, including intractable nausea and vomiting, facial swelling and rheumatoid arthritis.

Dobbins told NBC 5 the research program is 24 months long. He was given a second shot about 23 days after the initial shot, but is unsure if he was given the vaccine or the placebo. Dobbins said he hasn’t had any issues or side effects from receiving the two shots.

“I can't find a reason why not to get the vaccination,” said Dobbins. “I can find plenty of reasons to get the vaccination.”

NBC Chicago/CNBC
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