Kailua’s Rep. Marten was COVID Vaccine Test Subject
During Friday’s joint House Senate Informational Briefing on the State’s COVID-19 vaccination plans, Representative Lisa Marten, DrPH (D-51, Kailua, Waimānalo) revealed that she was one of the 44,000 trial participants nationwide for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination.
“I used to work for a clinical research program at our medical school and never thought I would be in a clinical trial myself, but I did participate in the COVID vaccine trial,” said Rep. Marten. “I am very health conscious – I am a vegetarian, I exercise, and I would never take a supplement that hadn’t been tested. So, I did my homework about the risks of the vaccine and felt the risks were low. In fact, here in Hawaiʻi many participants in the trial were doctors and dentists – people who had a good understanding of the biology.”
An advisory panel for the US Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine on Dec. 10 and distribution in Hawaiʻi is expected to be begin with priority groups of health care workers and care home residents and staff starting next week.
As one of approximately 525 Hawai‘i residents in the Pfizer trials, Representative Marten got her first shot on Sept. 2, a second one three weeks later, and has been subject to multiple COVID-19 tests and blood draws. The trials were a double-blind study meaning they did not reveal to her whether she got the vaccine or a placebo, but she did have mild side effects after both doses.
“I had some side effects the day after each shot. The first one was just a headache that went away with ibuprofen. The second one was worse, and I had a headache and felt nauseous for a day,” she said.
“Taking a part in the trials was well worth it. It is amazing that we have this vaccine so quickly, but that is not because they cut corners on safety. It was fast because governments took a financial gamble that has never been taken before – they invested in large scale production of a vaccine they might have had to throw away,” Rep. Marten said. “They also provided a secure market so that unlimited money and talent was poured into research. Also, investigators shared data and knowledge across the globe in a way that has never been done before. The vaccine is not mandatory, but if enough people take it, we can reopen our economy and hug our kūpuna again.”
Senate Committee on Health Chair Jarrett Keohokalole and House Committee on Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Chair Linda Ichiyama conducted the informational briefing on the State’s vaccine plan. State Department of Health officials and members of a statewide working group preparing for the distribution of the vaccine detailed the plan including the CDC’s prioritization to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for our residents and answered questions about cost, effectiveness, and safety.
“Throughout the life of this pandemic the Department of Health and all the members of our health care community have been working extremely hard to keep people alive,” said Sen. Keohokalole. “This vaccination plan is one of the areas that they have taken very proactive steps to put together a plan and execute it. They deserve credit for their hard work.”
“This will be the first in a series of informational briefings on the vaccination plan for the State of Hawai’i,” said Rep. Ichiyama. “We have many stages to go, many months to come. This is going to be a long journey for all of us as a community and we want to make sure that everybody stays informed, so please know that this will be the first in a series.”
Rep. Marten said seeing all the people and businesses that are suffering during this pandemic finalized her decision to take part in the trial testing program.
“What really inspired me are the problems I do see all around our State – my friends small businesses failing, people losing jobs and with it their self-esteem, children falling behind in school, people isolated or worse, trapped at home with abusers,” she said. “I want my life back, and I want my elderly parents to be able to resume their activities, and I want my children to go back to school.”