Dr. Atul Gawande, a coronavirus advisor to President-elect Joe Biden, told CNBC on Wednesday that he had participated in Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine study.
“My mom, 84, said, ‘I want to give something back,’ so she signed up for the trial. I said if my mom can, I’ll sign up for a vaccination trial,” said Gawande at the Squawk Box . “
Massachusetts-based Moderna was eventually the company to offer a study nearby, said Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard University. He said he received his first shot in August and “felt almost nothing”. However, when he received the second dose in late September, it was a different story.
“Two days later I had a fever, chills and had to stay home,” said Gawande, who is also chairman of Haven, the joint health care company owned by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase. “I haven’t had a day out of my practice or public health work in over a year. I barely let anything knock me down, but it knocked me down. Then, about 24 hours later, I was back on my feet and I’m fine. “
Gawande’s reflection on his experience comes from Americans being immunized against Covid-19 for the first time outside of clinical trials, starting last week with Pfizer’s vaccine and this week with Modernas. 614,117 doses were administered on Monday morning, according to a tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gawande said he didn’t know if he received the vaccine or was in the study placebo group. While he suspects the side effects he was experiencing were due to the actual vaccine, he said it was possible that it was a psychological reaction to the placebo. He added that his mother “had little reaction” to gunfire she received in her clinical trial.
Vaccine side effects are not necessarily a cause for concern, Gawande said. “That’s the immune system that comes on and your antibodies are made against the virus,” he said.
Gawande is part of a team of doctors and health professionals advising Biden during the coronavirus pandemic transition. Biden was vaccinated on live TV Monday in hopes of encouraging other Americans to be ready to receive the shot. “There’s nothing to worry about. I’m looking forward to the second shot,” said Biden.
Biden said Tuesday that Americans must remain vigilant about the coronavirus over the holidays, even though the vaccine has started to spread. “Meanwhile, the pandemic rages on. Experts believe it could get worse before it gets better,” he said.
Gawande gave a similar outlook on Wednesday, saying the current high infection rates in the country will result in more deaths from Covid-19 in the coming weeks and months.
“We have 300,000 deaths. The next 100,000 deaths are already branded in, with new infections in the last week or so,” said Gawande. “It’s really about whether we can avoid the 500,000 deaths, which is really just horrible to think about.”