BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Tuesday marks one year since the first Pfizer vaccines in the country were administered at the University of Maryland School of Medicine for the first phase of the trial.
Those efforts led to the FDA issuing Emergency Use Authorization in December for the Pfizer vaccine candidate found to be safe and efficacious in clinical trials. When this research started, there no licensed vaccines or therapies for COVID-19.
"It seemed like the only way we would get out of this mess," said David Rach, the first volunteer in the trial.
When third year PhD candidate David Rach got an email from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) to participate in the first COVID-19 vaccine trial, he didn’t hesitate to sign up.
"Campus had shut down 4 weeks before. In Maryland, cases were still rising. Hospitalizations were rising. Deaths were starting to rise," said Rach.
But he had no idea his cat waking him up early the morning of the trial, would mean he’d be the very first person in the country to get the Pfizer experimental mRNA vaccine.
"I beat the next person coming in my two minutes which is why I was the first to be scheduled," said Rach.
A year in now, it’s a source of pride. Millions have been vaccinated with Pfizer. He and the rest of the volunteers will still be monitored for 14 more months.
"It has been a very gratifying year and a ton of work," said Dr. Kirsten Lyke.
Lyke is the co-principal investigator for the Pfizer study at UMSOM.
"We didn’t know what the future held but it was pretty scary with COVID really just surging and to be here now, what we thought was a small trial and we had hoped would be successful, has just exceeded our wildest expectations," said Lyke.
Lyke said now they are looking forward, some volunteers have participated in booster studies and they have ongoing Moderna and Novavax trials, all while battling vaccine hesitancy.
"It’s [the vaccines have] been tremendously safe and overwhelmingly more safe than the risk of getting COVID so I think now is the time to say 'Join the herd and get your vaccine' so that we are all able to stop mask mandates and move on with our lives," said Lyke.
UMSOM will soon be starting a new trial called mix and match where they will do boosters in people who have gotten any COVID vaccine.