10 Questions About Joining a Coronavirus Vaccine Trial, Answered

Coronavirus vaccine trials pose a lot of questions for those looking to volunteer.
Coronavirus vaccine trials pose a lot of questions for those looking to volunteer.
zoranm/iStock via Getty Images

With the novel coronavirus continuing to disrupt millions of lives in the United States and countless more countries globally, it’s no surprise that vaccine manufacturers have reported unprecedented interest in volunteers looking to sign up for crucial phase 3 clinical trials. Both Pfizer (with partner BioNTech) and Moderna are looking to recruit 30,000 people each for testing their vaccine candidates, groups which will ultimately provide data on how effective the vaccines are in reducing the risk of coronavirus infection. (The Oxford vaccine, produced in partnership with AstraZeneca, is recruiting subjects in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.) As a result of these trials, we may know as early as this year whether one or more vaccines could help prevent infections and the slow the pandemic.

Enrolling in a vaccine trial offers no guarantee of immunity to the novel coronavirus—half of those participating will receive a placebo shot—and it’s not simply one office visit. We’ve compiled some of the more pressing questions and answers to consider when deciding whether to join a trial.

1. Who is eligible to enroll in a coronavirus vaccine trial?

According to Meridian Clinical Research, which is helping to organize the phase 3 clinical trial for the Moderna vaccine, volunteers must be at least 18 years of age with no known history of coronavirus infection. The study’s organizers could also weigh factors such as being an essential worker, coming into regular contact with the public, or having underlying conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. The trials are actively encouraging Black, Latinx, and Native American enrollees as well as older subjects in order to assess the efficacy of the vaccine in groups that are being hit the hardest by the virus.

The most important factor at this point may be the enrollment sites' locations. Meridian is currently recruiting subjects via nine offices in six states: Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, and South Dakota. Moderna uses several organizers and will operate 89 sites. Pfizer is looking for subjects in 39 states.

2. How do volunteers sign up?

Meridian Clinical Research is fielding volunteers for the Moderna trial via its website. Pfizer is inviting people to submit their requests online as well. To find a study in your area, you can also visit coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org, a site run by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Potential volunteers enter some basic information in a brief questionnaire. If eligible, a representative will reach out to gather more information and set up enrollment.

3. What happens when someone is accepted into a trial?

Those individuals deemed eligible to participate in a trial will be scheduled for an office visit where a baseline physical and bloodwork will be taken. They will also receive a COVID-19 test. Then, the participant will be injected with either a working vaccine or a placebo and monitored for side effects before being sent home. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are two doses, so subjects will need to return—typically in three to four weeks—for the second dose.

4. Are participants guaranteed to get an experimental coronavirus vaccine?

No. These phase 3 clinical trials are randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, meaning that half of the participants will get a placebo to create a control group. The results from this group will be compared to those who got the working vaccine. Neither the study subjects nor those administering the injection will know whether the injection had a working vaccine or the placebo, which is typically a harmless saltwater solution.

Even if the study subject receives the vaccine, there are no assurances it will provide any protection against coronavirus. That’s what the clinical trial is aiming to find out.

5. What are participants obligated to do?

Study subjects will be asked to commit to follow-up visits to assess their health and report any adverse effects. In the Pfizer study, volunteers will return a total of six times—including the initial two visits to administer the shot—over a two-year period. They may also be asked to keep a private online diary of symptoms.

6. Do volunteers get paid?

Generally, yes. As with many clinical trials, organizers will pay up to $2000 for subjects who complete the two-year observation period. The Pfizer study will also reimburse for expenses related to the study, like parking, meals, or other travel costs.

7. Are these trials safe?

By the time a vaccine begins a phase 3 trial, it’s already made it through the first two phases, which are focused on its safety in various doses. In fact, a vaccine is able to begin phase 3 and be administered to thousands of people because it demonstrated a promising safety profile in earlier stages. No major adverse events have been reported in the Moderna vaccine, which appears safe. The Pfizer vaccine has also demonstrated safety, though fatigue, headache, chills, or pain at the injection site have been observed for both vaccines.

It’s important to know, however, that a serious reaction is not out of the question. At least one participant in an earlier Moderna trial developed a fever of 103 degrees 12 hours after receiving a second dose and sought medical attention.

8. Is it possible to contract coronavirus from the vaccine?

No. There is no live virus used for either vaccine. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a synthetic version of the virus's messenger RNA, or mRNA, to prompt human cells to produce protein from the virus that allows the immune system to mount a defense. The vaccination cannot infect anyone.

9. What happens if someone gets sick during a trial?

At no point is anyone involved in a phase 3 trial purposely infected with COVID-19. (That approach, called a “challenge trial,” is being heavily debated among scientists.) If a vaccine study subject becomes ill, they would likely be covered under their insurance plan. If the subject has no insurance and is harmed in some way as a result of the vaccine, then they may be eligible for financial reimbursement for medical costs. Because these policies can vary, it’s important for volunteers to request this information from the trial organizers and their own insurance company ahead of time.

10. When will researchers have an answer on whether the vaccines work?

Estimates vary widely on when data will be available to demonstrate how well the vaccines work in protecting subjects against COVID-19 infection. The studies need to enroll participants who meet eligibility guidelines, administer an initial dose, wait several weeks to deliver a second dose, and then wait to see who in the vaccine and placebo groups becomes infected. In order to assess the vaccine being 60 percent effective, for example, roughly 150 infections would need to be documented out of 30,000 people. Moderna believes an answer could come by November or December. Pfizer believes information might be available by October. The Food and Drug Administration has already stated a vaccine would need to be at least 50 percent effective to be approved.

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

Lasko/Amazon

This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

Alrocket/Amazon

Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

De’Longhi/Amazon

If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

Aikoper/Amazon

Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

Isiler/Amazon

For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

Hiland/Amazon

The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

Solo Stove/Amazon

This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

Dr. Infrared/Amazon

You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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Want to Fall Asleep Faster? Try This Breathing Technique

Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Struggling to fall asleep can feel like a hopeless battle. It often seems like the harder you try turning your brain off, the less likely it is to happen. One way to trick yourself into falling asleep fast is finding something to concentrate on other than how long you've been awake. For nights when your thoughts just won't stay quiet, try the 4-7-8 technique.

According to Simplemost, the 4-7-8 breathing method is meant to combat anxiety, restlessness, and other enemies of a good night's sleep. The actual technique is simple: Just inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Like counting sheep, measuring out your breaths gives your brain something to do that isn't obsessing about your hectic day or the day ahead.

Taking slow, deliberate breaths has also been proven to reduce stress. Neurons that influence calmness have been found in the breathing control centers of mouse brains. In humans, deep breathing has long been central to mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation. The 4-7-8 breathing technique functions as both a distraction from your thoughts and a way to combat any anxious sensations that may be keeping you awake.

The next time you find yourself tossing and turning at night, try anywhere between three and eight rounds of this breathing technique to calm your body and mind. And to get the best rest possible, make sure you're settling into the best sleep position for your health.

[h/t Simplemost]