Thousands of volunteers – including a member of the News4 family – are taking part in the third and final phase of a clinical coronavirus vaccine trial in hopes of saving lives and preventing countless others from getting sick.
Brandon Benavides is one of the many volunteers walking around with a science experiment in his body. He's also a writer and producer for News4.
"I'm OK being the guinea pig," Benavides said. "For two days, I was pinched, poked, swabbed, everything, and I hope that this helps people in the future."
The vaccine, developed by biotech company Moderna, showed promise in early testing. Moderna partnered with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to test the vaccine. It was developed with new technology using the virus' genetic code to produce antibodies in the body, triggering an immune response.
Benavides heard about the clinical trial while he was at work. He felt compelled to get involved after watching a story about the need for more diversity in clinical trials for COVID-19.
"The Hispanic and Latino and Black communities are hard-hit by COVID-19 and they might not have all the resources they need," Benavides said. "So this was one thing that I could do for my community and for myself to help others."
Some of his family members in Texas worried about Benavides' safety, but he didn’t think twice.
He said he doesn’t know if he’s been given the experimental vaccine or a placebo. To keep the experiment double-blind, his doctors don’t know, either.
So far, he’s had no serious side effects since receiving his first dose. The vaccine or placebo is given in two doses, 28 days apart.
"I could not see them when they gave me the injection. I had to turn away. They don't let anybody see the actual needle or the box," Benavides said.
"I waited there for 30 minutes and they took my temperature. They checked my arm to see if there was any redness, if it was swollen. It was fine," he said.
Benavides has continued to monitor his health for potential side effects. He logs regular updates in a journal as he awaits his second dose.
Some Moderna volunteers have experienced side effects such as fatigue, fever, headaches and arm soreness, but researchers say their symptoms were not serious.
Benavides says he hasn’t had any complications and that it "just felt like I got a vaccine ... nothing out of the ordinary."
He continues to wear a face mask and take precautions while encouraging others to get involved in clinical trials such as this one.
"This is a two-year study, and so I'll be following up for the next two years," he said.