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KVUE: Political pressure: Local woman part of COVID-19 vaccine trial worries after sudden change to appointment

September 3, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas — On the last day of the Republican National Convention, Abby Strite got a phone call from the clinic where she plans to participate in phase three of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial.

“She sounded very frazzled and a little frantic,” Strite said. “They had received a new deadline.”

Her initial appointment was scheduled for Sept. 16. Last week, the clinic called to say the new deadline for the first round of appointments was Sept. 11. Strite rescheduled for Sept. 9.

The minor change in schedule wasn’t the big deal to Strite, but rather the political pressure surrounding the coronavirus crisis.

“I just started thinking about it and wondering if it could be politically motivated as part of, sort of, rushing through these trials and trying to get results faster,” Strite said.

She asked the clinic staff but wasn’t given an explanation.

KVUE reached out to the Velocity/Advanced Clinical Research clinic in Cedar Park but didn’t hear back. KVUE also reached out to Moderna several times to find out more about the new deadline but has yet to hear back.

Strite took her concerns to Twitter and it wasn’t long before U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett got on the phone with her.

“What appears to be President Trump's deadline to be able to make some sensational announcement on the eve of the election and Abby's participation suggest that that rush may be underway,” Rep. Doggett said in an interview with KVUE.

He’s concerned about the rush, just like Strite.

“I want this dictated by medical science, not political science,” Rep. Doggett said.

During the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, President Donald Trump addressed the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We will have a safe and effective vaccine this year, and together we will crush the virus,” President Trump said.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said he’s willing to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine before phase three of a trial is complete by authorizing it under emergency use.

That also cautions Rep. Doggett.

“We won't know about immunity. We won't know about effectiveness. We won't know about all the potential harmful side effects if we don't have a completed and satisfactory trial,” Rep. Doggett said.

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci also warned against rushing a vaccine. He told Reuters it could deter people from enrolling in other trials.

“You don't want a vaccine to be available widely to the American public unless it's been shown to be safe and effective,” Dr. Fauci said.

Strite said she will still participate in the trial but wanted to make sure others are aware.

“What I'm most worried about is reading preliminary results in an overly optimistic way. That could be to the detriment, like I said, of public health,” Strite said.

Rep. Doggett said Strite’s situation was shared with the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. His office has also reached out to the Trump administration and Moderna asking for assurance that there’s no rush to get this vaccine approved.