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Matt Sczesny chronicles his experiences participating in COVID-19 vaccine trial

WPTV reporter takes part in two-dose vaccine made by AstraZeneca
Matt Sczesny's arm prepares to get COVID-19 vaccine shot
Posted at 3:27 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-25 15:18:00-05

Day 1: Nov. 30, 2020

Inside the medical office building on the JFK Medical Center campus in Atlantis, I started filling out the forms to take part in the COVID-19 vaccine trial Monday morning.

The decision to do this did take some thought on my part, but I decided it was worth it to try and be part of a solution to the pandemic, especially since I am in, what was described to me as a, high-risk job, being out in public daily.

The vaccine being offered was developed at Oxford University and is being made by AstraZeneca. It is a two-dose vaccine and attempts to mimic the virus to get the human body to make antibodies to fight the virus.

AstraZeneca has made news recently over a mix-up in doses and reporting issues in trials in Brazil and the U.K., but in the U.S., I'm told, the trial is proceeding as usual.

"In our trial, we're vaccinating as many people as we can fit in, so we have no shortage of people who are volunteering," Dr. Larry Bush, the lead investigator for the trial in Palm Beach County, told me.

"Our trial here in the U.S. is two full doses and we don't have that data yet, but we do know from our data with the two full doses that over 99% of people produce antibodies," Bush said.

Two other drug makers, Pfizer and Moderna, have reported their vaccines appear to have 90% effectiveness in fighting COVID-19 and both have already applied for emergency approval in the U.S.

My experience to receive the shot involved a lot of consent forms and information about the vaccine and its possible side effects, most which happen 8 to 12 hours after the injection.

Matt Sczesny fills out paperwork prior to undergoing COVID-19 vaccine trial
Matt Sczesny fills out paperwork prior to getting his first shot as part of a COVID-19 vaccine trial in Palm Beach County.

"The ones we're looking for related to the injection are here -- the fever, chills and that's a low-grade fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches and then usually people will see some tenderness near the injection site," Dr. David Halpert said.

I was also warned to call the doctor right away if more serious COVID-like symptoms persist for two days, such as shortness of breath and a high fever.

The trial, I was told, will follow my health for two years, tracking how well the vaccine may be working.

After a short physical exam that included a blood test and a COVID-19 test, the vaccine was brought into the exam room in a red locked box.

Dr. David Halpert holds red box containing COVID-19 vaccine
Dr. David Halpert holds a red locked box containing the COVID-19 vaccine before it is administered to Matt Sczesny.

I was told that nobody knows if I was getting the real vaccine or a placebo, the selection made by a computer program.

The shot itself was just like a flu shot -- fast and virtually no pain.

WATCH: Matt Sczesny receives first COVID-19 vaccine shot

Matt Sczesny receives first COVID-19 vaccine shot

I suspect if any side effects happen within the next day or so, I'll have a good idea of whether or not I got the placebo.

After a brief observation to ensure there were no allergic reactions, I was given the $100 that goes to all trial volunteers and instructions for reporting my condition back to researchers, along with a reminder to return for the second booster shot in 29 days.

Day 2: Dec. 1, 2020

One of the big things that I came away from this experience with the trial was to be mindful of the side effects with the shot.

They talk about mild side effects, which include things like headaches, a small fever and maybe some sluggishness. They said you would kind of feel like a bad cold or maybe even like the early stages of the flu.

WATCH: Matt Sczesny speaks about undergoing COVID-19 vaccine trial

Matt Sczesny speaks about undergoing COVID-19 vaccine trial

I can say, at this point, after 24 hours, I do not have many symptoms at all, to speak of, or many side effects, to speak of, so my suspicion is I may be in that placebo group. But, again, I'm not sure, because it is a double-blind study and I was told that, even with the odds of the placebo out there, 42% of people have no reaction at all to that first shot.

So it very well may be that I do have the real vaccine in this test and did not display any side effects.

Day 18: Dec. 17, 2020

It's now been over two weeks since I received my shot in a COVID-19 vaccine trial underway in Palm Beach County.

So far, I'm feeling fine and have not been sick. I am continuing to do everything as I did before the shot as far as mask wearing and not attending large gatherings.

I did get a follow-up call from the trial nurse following my progress, but no fever, no aches, no real issues.

I have had two COVID tests this month and both were negative.

I still have no idea if I received the real vaccine or a placebo. It is a double-blind study.

In retrospect, I recall feeling a little tired in the hours after the shot.

The trial does require two shots and I plan to return to the medical office at the end of the month for the second shot.

Day 29: Dec. 23, 2020

WPTV journalist Matt Sczesny received his second shot on Monday as part of an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial in Palm Beach County.

Calling the experience "fairly routine," Sczesny said he was asked a series of health questions, received a blood test for antibodies, and then was given the shot.

Sczesny said he's experienced no symptoms of COVID-19 since getting his first shot in November, other than a minor headache and sluggishness in the late afternoon several days ago which could be attributed to general fatigue of the day.

"I feel OK now," Sczesny said.

Day 57: Jan. 25, 2021

WPTV reporter Matt Sczesny visited the doctor's office for a blood test for antibodies.