Duke University is site for clinical trials for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Use of a COVID-19 vaccine that’s widely popular in Europe is being suspended by some countries over concern that it’s causing blood clots.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is not yet approved in the United States, but is currently undergoing clinical trials.

“I’ve seen the process that investigators go through and felt that if a drug had made it as far as it had, I was happy to give it a go,” said Donna Benjamin.

Benjamin is one of 179 people participating in phase three clinical trials at Duke University for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The study is “double blind” meaning participants don’t know if they got a dose of the vaccine, or a placebo.

Benjamin, whose husband is a doctor at Duke, learned about the study after signing two of her children up for a Pfizer vaccine clinical trial.

She received her first dose in February, and her second a few week later. She had no symptoms and continued to go for weekly blood draws.

“I was 100 percent convinced that I had a placebo. I felt nothing. My arm wasn’t sore. I was really disappointed. My mom is 91-years-old, so I was really hoping to get vaccinated,” said Benjamin.

Assuming she didn’t get the vaccine, she signed up to get vaccinated for her job as a substitute teacher in Orange County.

“I’ve been on thier waitlist for months,” she said.

On Tuesday when she got an appointment to get the Moderna vaccine, Benjamin called the trial coordinator who “unblinded” her, telling her she did get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I was absolutely shocked,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin says she’s seen firsthand the amount of work that goes into bringing a drug to market. She says she trusts the science and isn’t worried about the issues arising in Europe.

“I have zero fear about that,” she said.

France, Italy, Germany and others suspended use of the drug amid reports of blood clots after usage.

“Unfortunately, we’re at a time where we’re trying to really balance safety and speed of getting this thing out of here so we can get out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Garett Franklin with Cary Medical Group.

According to the drug maker, of the 17 million people in the United Kingdom and Europe who received the vaccine, less than 40 developed blood clots. The company says that’s lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population.

European regulators say there’s “no indication” the shot was responsible

“There’s a lot of things that could cause that. Was it really due to the vaccine? And that’s where experts have to weigh in and tease out the data to say ‘gosh, we really can’t explain this any way other than the vaccine’,” said Franklin.

Franklin says while he encourages all his patients to get vaccinated, he recommends people speak with their vaccine provider about their medical history beforehand.

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