This past Monday, Seattle-area Microsoft network engineer Neal Browning became the second-ever person to be injected with the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna.
Later this week, we caught up with Browning to chat about how he ended up here, how his daily routine has changed since taking the vaccine, and what it feels like to take part in medical history.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Futurism: Why did you volunteer to take part in this trial?
Neal Browning: Because science, facts, and medicine are important parts of modern life. I tell my three daughters they have to go get their vaccinations and flu shots, I am no different when leading by example. If I am healthy and can help take part in trying to reduce the pain, suffering and deaths associated with this pandemic, I would be remiss not to.
Logistically, how'd you actually get involved?
A friend on Facebook referred me to the program, I looked into it and felt like I could make a difference if I took part.
What did it feel like, emotionally, as you prepared to get your first dose?
I was actually pretty relaxed. They had just taken my blood pressure and pulse before to make sure all was well, I was at about 72bpm pulse. I donate blood regularly, and needles don't bother me. There is no dead or even weakened virus in this vaccine, and while it had never been tested on any animal and I was the second to get it, I knew and accepted the risks.
Did you notice any side effects, or anything else, after you took the vaccine?
So far, near zero. The injection didn't hurt at all, and there was only a slight tightness in my arm from the vaccine being inserted. The following morning, there was very mild ache in the muscle at the injection site, but once I moved around and got blood flowing, it disappeared entirely within five minutes.
Are you at home, or are you being held for observation?
I'm at home, but have a daily log to fill out, recording any symptoms at all, even if I don't think they are related to the vaccine, as well as my temperature daily. I'll return to the research location once a week for blood draws to analyze how my body is reacting.
What’s your living situation currently like?
I live with my fiancé, and 50 percent of the time we have my two daughters and her one daughter. We wash hands regularly, don't associate outside the home, and limit exposure by not going to public places except when absolutely necessary.
What happens next for you and the other participants as they test whether the vaccine worked?
We continue daily logs, and go get blood taken for the next four weeks. On week four, we will get a second vaccine injection, then go through an identical 4 weeks of weekly blood draws and daily logs.
Are you in any risk groups for the coronavirus, and did that factor into why they selected you?
No, that would be the phase 2 group, this group was tightly controlled, all between 18 and 55 years old, very healthy, and they went over our medical history quite in depth and rigorously to ensure there were not underlying health issues that could interfere at this first testing phase.
Do you know anyone who’s been personally affected by the outbreak?
Yes, I heard that one of my old co-worker's daughter had (she is in her early 20s) and had a rough go of it, but is recovered and ok now.
Is there anything else you think our readers should know?
Yes — do not treat this lightly. If we overreact, we might never know if we did. If we under-react, we will cost a lot of lives needlessly. Those saying it is just the flu, or that they are young and won't be hurt — you can be infected and contagious for over a week before you have symptoms. Think about your parents, friends, grandparents, everyone you are spreading this to unintentionally — then they do the same. This is why we are in the place we are now. Limit social interactions outside of your home, wash your hands, and this will end sooner, and with less loss of life.