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Missouri Woman's Vaccine Trial Experience Provides Valuable Lessons

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio
Arnold resident Carrie Rayfield Cabral credits participating in the Pfizer vaccine trial for saving her from contracting COVID-19.

COVID-19 raged through Carrie Rayfield Cabral's home last month. But the Arnold resident credits participating in the Pfizer vaccine trial for saving her from contracting the virus.

“I was exposed, not just by my partner's son, but also by my partner,” she said. “You would anticipate that the viral load would probably be pretty high, floating around my house at that time — [but] I had no symptoms, no nothing.”

Until Pfizer unblinds the study, Cabral cannot be certain as to whether she received the real vaccine or the placebo. But Cabral and her health care provider are pretty sure it was the real deal, based on her experience after getting the second dose of the vaccine.

“About an hour after I got the booster, I started feeling a little bad. I had a headache,” she said. “Two hours into it, I had body aches. About three hours in, I started reading a low-grade fever, my eyes were burning.”

Cabral called the nursing line to report her symptoms, as she suffers from preexisting conditions that include asthma, and she can come down with pneumonia several times each year.

“And the nurse assured me. She said, ‘That's actually pretty normal; it's your body's response. It's an immune response, where your body is actually trying to produce those antibodies to fight off [COVID-19].’ And then I was like, ‘Then I guess I probably didn't get the placebo.’ She said, ‘Yeah, that's probably a good indication.’”

Cabral experienced the side effects for three days until suddenly, she woke up feeling fine. “There were no other lingering effects,” she said.

Now that the Food and Drug Administration has cleared both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, distribution to the public can begin, starting with health care employees.

The vaccines take two shots to complete the process, and for those who can schedule their second booster shot, Cabral has this advice: “Do yourself a favor and get it done on a Friday, at least to make yourself more comfortable in your home and be able to mitigate some of those side effects, or make it less less harsh than if you were working.”

Despite the side effects she experienced, Cabral hopes everyone will consider getting the vaccine.

“I'm extremely proud at having even been given the opportunity to participate" in the trial, she said. “We've lost 300,000 Americans now, in under a year. And the thought of preventing 300,000 more, or being part of something that helps prevent it, far outweighs any risks that I could have exposed myself to.”

“I trust that the doctors and scientists that were in charge of this, that developed it. They know what they're doing,” she added. “They didn't get where they are by not knowing what they're doing.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.