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Flu-vaccine study participant shares his experience

Stanford researchers are currently recruiting participants for a clinical trial to study the immune response to an experimental, seasonal DNA flu vaccine and boosted by one of two licensed seasonal flu vaccines.

As my colleague describes in a release, the immediate goals of the trial are to test the safety of the experimental DNA vaccine given alone or at the same time as the licensed vaccines, and to assess the immune responses they produce. Overall, researchers hope the study, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, will increase the scientific community's understanding about how to safely improve the immune response to seasonal flu vaccines.

Below, study participant Johan Andreasson discusses his experience with the trial. Those interested in enrolling themselves can learn more here.

Why did you decide to enroll in this clinical trial? Had you been in one before?

I've never participated in a trial before. When I saw the advertisement in the elevator at work, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn more about this type of research. I also recognize that researchers involved in projects like these are working really hard to find and validate new treatments that benefit us all, so we should do our best to help them. Sufficient patient recruitment is essential for the success of any trial. Finally, medical research excites me and I was going to get a flu shot anyway - so why not make the most of it?

Going into this experience, what did you know about research studies? What were you expecting?

As a graduate student in a biomedical related area, I'm familiar with both lab research and clinical studies. However, no two studies are the same so I didn't have any clear expectations.

What has your participation in the trial involved so far?

Since signing up for the trial, I have visited the clinic twice and participated in a follow-up call over the phone. In the week following the vaccination, patients take their temperature daily and document any side-effects. Overall I found their process to be very smooth, and I don’t think the time commitment should deter anyone from participating.

Did you have any concerns going into the trial and, if so, how did the researchers address them?

I personally didn't have any major concerns, especially after learning more about the study. The researchers were very conscientious in explaining what the study entailed and making sure that I fully understood what I was consenting to. The researchers I interacted with were very professional, and it was evident that patient safety was their primary concern.

Has your involvement in the study increased your knowledge about vaccines and influenza?

Yes. After enrolling in the trial, I read up on DNA vaccines and how they differ from and potentially improve on normal flu shots. Both the study nurse and doctor were also very knowledgeable and were willing to answer any questions I had about disease transmission, the mechanism of the vaccine or other issues.

What advice can you share with others who are thinking about participating in the vaccine trial?

I would recommend it! Vaccines are one of the most important innovations in modern medicine. As a trial participant you have the chance to contribute to the development of a universal flu vaccine that may have the potential to prevent future pandemics. You'll receive the standard flu shot as a part of the trial and have the opportunity to observe medical research up close. If anyone has concerns about this trial, I would recommend reaching out to the study coordinators, as they are very competent and can explain the advantages and risks involved.

Information can also be requested by phone at (650) 498-7284 and by email at Participants will receive $30 for each non-vaccination clinic visit completed, and $60 for each vaccination visit completed.

Previously: Patients share clinical trial experiences at Stanford, Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about seasonal influenza and Clinical trials: My next good chance
Photo by Lance McCord

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