KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite its rocky development, Kansas City metro participants in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial feel confident in the company's process.
Kearney husband and wife Gary and Lou Marchbank are among 500 people enrolled in the vaccine trial through the University of Kansas Medical Center.
"Basically you can't have a vaccine if you don't have trials, so somebody's got to step up and say we'll do it," Gary Marchbank said.
The couple received injections last fall. Around that time, the Food and Drug Administration halted trials due to concerns of neurological symptoms.
"We talked to them about that because obviously we followed the news report about it, and they said of the three people that had the symptoms, one had pre-existing conditions, one had received the placebo and the other one had gotten the vaccine," Lou Marchbank said. "To me, one out of all the people that had received it was not significant."
Marchbank said she would have been more concerned if trials had not been halted.
"To me it was just very reassuring," Lou Marchbank said.
There also were concerns about the vaccine's effectiveness on older people. More recently, there were concerns about blood clots, which stopped distribution in some European countries. Ultimately, the company's U.S. trial results showed no evidence the vaccine is to blame for either.
Trial participant Krista Palacios said she trusts the process.
"Seeing that they've stopped the trial, re-started it, those types of things, it just shows that they're being extra careful, that they're taking all of the steps they need to," Palacios said.
As a health care worker herself, Palacios feels a sense of duty taking part in the trials.
"It's exciting," she said. "It's exciting to know that I'm part of the process to make it possible for the vaccines to be available for the general public."
When the Marchbanks became eligible for a vaccine they were unblinded from the trials. Gary learned he received vaccine, which he assumed due to experiencing cold-like symptoms after, and Lou learned she received a placebo.
She has since received the Pfizer vaccine and been able to hug her grandchildren for the first time in a year.
The couple will stay in the trials and continue to be monitored until October 2022.
They hope everyone who can will get a vaccine when it's available to them and realize normal life is on the other side.
"To me, the benefits far outweigh the risks," Lou Marchbank said. "Those nine grand babies they just need their nana."