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The Vaccine: Conquering COVID exclusive interview with first vaccine recipient, Jen Haller, plus preview

Jen Haller was the first recipient of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine, she tells us her story. Pic credit: Discovery

COVID-19 is an explosive outbreak that’s involved virtually everybody on our planet and in less than a year these infectious disease pathogens have wreaked havoc on humanity.

Tonight Discovery and discovery+ will air the documentary The Vaccine: Conquering COVID and Monsters & Critics was able to interview the first person ever to receive any vaccine against the disease, Jen Haller.

COVID-19 has been terrifying for many scientists when it became clear that this was going to become a global pandemic, and especially for people who were paying attention to the potential devastation, and the subsequent death counts in each country.

Experts knew that we needed a vaccine if we were going to triumph over this threat. They knew that nothing like this has ever been accomplished before, and collectively, the research and scientific communities turned on all the burners and got a vaccine to the people in record time, not worrying about ownership or bragging rights.

What does it take to create a vaccine in record time to once and for all eradicate a global pandemic? What measures are in place to ensure its safety? And how did the world’s leading doctors and healthcare experts develop it?

Today, Discovery gives you all the data in a sequential timeline in The Vaccine: Conquering COVID.

“With everything the world has been through over the last year, the public craves an understanding of what is happening and what is yet to come,” said Nancy Daniels, Chief Brand Officer, Discovery & Factual in a press statement. “We are proud to present this deep-dive into the COVID-19 crisis to Discovery audiences, detailing the work of thousands of men and women around the world who are proving there is hope is on the horizon.”

Experts interviewed include Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health; and Dr. John Mascola of the National Institutes of Health, as well as interviews with scientists from leading pharmaceutical companies including Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer.

The special also details the heroic efforts of early trial volunteers, including Jen Haller, a Seattle resident who Monsters & Critics interviewed. She became the first person in the United States to receive the Moderna vaccine.

Monsters & Critics: How was it that they found you as the first COVID-19 vaccine recipient?

Jen Haller: It was early March. I’m in Seattle. COVID was at the forefront of my mind here. My parents live not too far from the first, nursing home that was first hit with COVID. I was at work and I’m poking around on Facebook and a friend of mine posted that our local Kaiser Permanente clinic was opening up the trial.

I filled out the survey and I saw that and I thought, Hey, why not? Let’s, let’s see if there’s something here and see if I’d be a good match. I filled that out and the rest is history. I didn’t set out to be the first. I knew I would be, as conversation started. I was going to the clinic to get set up and confirmation that I would be a good match for the trial.

It really wasn’t until the night before that I was before I was going in for my first dose that I was reading a breaking AP story. And it said, ‘the first person in the world is getting their vaccine tomorrow.’ And I’m like, well, that’s interesting.

Okay. I knew that my appointment was at 8:00 AM and I thought that it might be me. So when I got there that morning and it was true, I was the first, only because of scheduling. There were three other participants, trial participants, there that day that got the vaccination.

M&C: So you won the luck of the draw. You were the first, now was the identity of the maker of the vaccine cloaked, or did you know it was Moderna? Did you know that it was for COVID-19?

Jen Haller: Yes. It was specifically because of COVID.

M&C: Any caveats or warnings ahead of the shot?

Jen Haller: There was a 30-something page release that had all of the information, all of the potentials.

Before I had my first dose, it updated a couple of times. I re-signed it a couple of times with the new information, but, they were fully supportive with any questions I had and they were great about getting me the information that I needed.

M&C: How did you feel after you had your first shot?

Jen Haller: It was really similar for us, like getting the shot. It was very similar to a flu shot. Then the next day, my arm was definitely sore and I did have a slightly elevated temperature for a day.

Other than that I felt perfectly normal. And so the thing to understand is that because of the phase one trial that is focused on safety in humans, they start out with a low dose for the first 15 of us in this trial. I got 25 micrograms and then they ended up giving 100 micrograms to the next group… and then 250 for the group after that.

I got a quarter dose.

And throughout all the trials, they determined that a hundred micrograms with the right dosage for everybody.

M&C: Did you get the second shot?

Jen Haller: Yes. Also 25 micrograms and same symptoms of forearm and a little elevated temperature, but, nothing really.

M&C: Now, because you had such a low dosage, will you have another round of vaccines?

Jen Haller: It’s still up in the air. I’m one of 15 people who are in this strange boat of having only 25 micrograms.

So it’s not a high priority for them to figure this out right now. I’ve received communication that they’re working on it and they’re looking to get approval, to allow us to get a better shot of 100 micrograms.

And they’re hopeful that they’ll have that figured out this month, but I’m in no hurry. I’m I am taking all the, all the safety precautions that we should be taking right now. So it’s fine. There’s other people that need it a lot more than I do for sure.

An exclusive preview:

THE VACCINE: CONQUERING COVID streams Thursday, February 18 on Discovery+.

April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics...read more

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