"I'm Happy I Did It" - Volunteering For a COVID Vaccine Trial With T1D
"I'm Happy I Did It" - Volunteering For a COVID Vaccine Trial With T1D
Helene Cooper has type 1 diabetes, asthma, and she's Black. All of those factors increase her risks if she catches COVID 19. They're also exactly what the researchers behind one of the vaccine trials were looking for. She's now in that Phase 3 Trial and shares what it's been like. Helene is also a reporter for the New York Times, covering the Pentagon and has an incredible story that began well before she was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 15. In Tell Me Something Good, a few high profile birthdays and diaversaries Plus, Innovations – see through is your organizational friend. This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider. ----- available to Diabetes Connections listeners! ----- Get the App and listen to Diabetes Connections wherever you go! Episode Transcription: Stacey Simms 0:00 Diabetes Connections is brought to you by One Drop created for people with diabetes by people who have diabetes by Real Good Foods real food you feel good about eating and by Dexcom take control of your diabetes and live life to the fullest with Dexcom. Announcer 0:21 This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms. Stacey Simms 0:27 This week taking part in a COVID vaccine trial. Reporter Helene Cooper has type one and asthma and says she decided to apply after she met Dr. Anthony Fauci backstage at Meet the Press. She says at first, he wouldn't really answer her questions about her odds Helene Cooper 0:44 And finally, he just he was standing by the door to go on air as we weren't in the same segment. He just stopped at the door. He was like, Look, I'm not saying that you're a dead duck, but she just really need to not get it. Oh, God, I really need to not get this. Stacey Simms 1:00 Helene is now in a phase three vaccine trial. She's a New York Times Pentagon reporter and talks about what it's been like doing her job and living with T1D during this pandemic in Tell me something good a couple of high profile birthdays and diversities plus innovations. Why see-through is your organizational friend. This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider. Welcome to another week of the show. I'm so glad to have you along. I'm your host, Stacey Simms. We aim to educate and inspire about type 1 diabetes by sharing stories of connection. My son was diagnosed with type one right before he turned two. That was back in 2006. My husband lives with type two. I don't have diabetes, I have a background in broadcasting. And that's how you get the podcast. There is so much in the news these days about the potential for a COVID vaccine. news about the trials political news about vaccines. This episode is a personal story about one woman's experience going through one of the vaccine trials. So I just want to let you know about that right up front. And a big thank you to Gillian McPhee, who in the Facebook group Diabetes Connections The Group shared the article that Helene Cooper wrote about her experience getting into the vaccine and a lot of what she shares here on the show, but I will link that up. I reached out to Helene on Twitter, and she graciously responded. Now Helene has an incredible story, even before she signed up for this trial. I mean, well, before she was diagnosed with type one at the age of 15. She and her family fled here from Liberia. And I'm going to link up that story in the show notes at Diabetes connections.com. It'll be on the episode homepage. I'd really urge you to read that. But one of the problems with the vaccine trials was all of the COVID vaccine trials is getting enough people into them. I'm also going to link up more information on that and I'm going to come back after the interview and talk a little bit more about it. I know you want to hear from Helene. And we'll get to that in just a moment. But first diabetes Connections is brought to you by One Drop. It is so nice to find a diabetes product that not only does what you need, but also fits in perfectly with your life. One Drop is that it's the sleekest looking and most modern beater My family has ever used. And it's not just about their modern meter setup. You can also send your readings to the mobile app automatically and review your data at any time. Instantly share blood glucose reports with your healthcare team. It also works with your Dexcom Fitbit or your Apple Watch. Not to mention they're awesome test strips subscription plans, pick as many test strips as you need and they'll deliver them to your door. One Drop diabetes care delivered, learn more, go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the One Drop logo. My guest this week is doing us all a huge service by participating in one of the trials for the COVID vaccine. As we recorded this interview, Helene Cooper had taken the first shot. She is due for the second in just a few days as this episode airs. Helene is a New York Times Pentagon reporter, but she says that's not why she was selected. She explains it is because she lives with type one, she has asthma, and she's black. There are not enough people from any of those groups represented in any of the vaccine trials. I tried to cover a lot with Helene and as this is an ongoing story. She was gracious enough to agree to come back on maybe a couple of weeks that she's further along and share more about her experience. So here is our talk. Hello, and thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your experience. I really appreciate it. Helene Cooper 4:35 I'm happy to be here, Stacey. I've never been asked to talk to diabetics before. So this is kind of cool. Stacey Simms 4:40 Oh, nice. Well, I always like to tell guests like you that you don't explain the difference between type one and type two. We speak the language. We get it. I'm just so interested in so many of your experiences. But let's start with the COVID vaccine trial that I saw that article came to my attention. How did you get in the trial to be If you could kind of start from the beginning, Helene Cooper 5:01 okay, I was watching Dr. Fauci on testify, I think it was before the House. It was either July 30, or the 31st. And he said that all of these vaccine trials were getting underway. And he said they needed volunteers. And he rattled off the name of a website that you could go to to volunteer. I don't know why I did it. But I just went on to the website, and I filled it out. I said, I was type one diabetic, I put that I have asthma I did. I filled everything out and went on about my business. And then a couple of weeks later, I was in the Outer Banks. So it was like, it was somewhere around August 28, the week of august 22 23rd 24, something like that. I got a phone call on my cell phone from GW from a clinical research associate, who said I had been picked for the Maderna trial. And then I got nervous, because it's like, it's one thing when you fill out the questionnaire, and you think they're never going to call you and then they call, she said that I've been picked because I was type one diabetic, they needed to see if the vaccine was safe for people like me, I asked her a lot of questions. Because my first fear that a friend of mine had put in my head was what if they give you the vaccine, and then send you to like a high risk area and ask you to wander around without a mask or anything like that. And I thought, Well, I'm not doing that. I've been super careful for the past six months, because I think we heard pretty early on, I still remember that sinking feeling in my stomach back in February, and March where they started talking about the high risk people and seeing diabetes. And it just said diabetes, it didn't say type one or type two, which drove me crazy, because it's like, these are two different diseases. And do they mean but whatever. When I saw I had run into Dr. Fauci back in on March 8, when I was in the green room for a Meet the Press episode. And the first thing out of my mouth, I walk in, and he was sitting on the chair, and it's like, wow, look, it's like I recognized it from TV. And I was I immediately started talking to him about COVID, because that's what he was there to talk about. And I was like, Well, I'm type one diabetic and blah, blah. I was like, you know, what happens if I get it? And he was like, he kept. He wasn't beating around the bush. But he kept saying, you need to not get it. And I was like, Yeah, but what happens if I do get it? And he was like, No, you really need to not get it. And he wasn't he wasn't answering my question, but not answering my question. And I wanted to know like, okay, most people get it and there's a 98% chance they'll be fine. My like a 93% chance or what, exactly what, and finally, he just seems standing by them. He'd walked out the door to go on air, because we weren't in the same segment. He just stopped at the door. He was like, Look, I'm not saying that you're a dead duck, but she just really needs to not get it. Oh, God, I really need to not get this. So I have covered the Ebola pandemic in Liberia. In 2014. I didn't Liberia for a month during Ebola I and at the time, I understood then that I really needed to not get Ebola as well being a type one diabetic. So I put into place my Ebola protocols. I think I called them on March 8, where I was washing my hands all the time, I was staying away from I stopped touching people. I was I've been and I've been really careful. I wear masks. I only just now recently stopped wearing gloves everywhere I went that I had been doing that for a while. And nobody's come into my house except my mom, my sister and my nephew. And brother in law. I'm like, so I'm probably much more careful than most people are. Because I think we kind of have to be because there's so much we don't know, I'm just rambling at this point, not letting you ask any questions? Stacey Simms 8:41 No, it's wonderful. A lot to unpack there as Yes. So let me go back when you said there's not a lot of information about type one and type two, we you know, in the community, we're talking about that all the time. Helene Cooper 8:52 Yeah. One of the things everybody I've asked about it has said they don't because I went to my normal diabetic doctor, and I was asking her about this. And she said the problem they don't know. All they know is that the people who showing up in the hospitals and needing to be put on ventilators and leading and having severe reactions and get you know, and you know, getting really sick and dying. A lot of them tend to be diabetics, but then I asked, you know, are they type one are they type two, and they're certainly type two, but she seemed to think that they're type ones as well. And that's what this is based on. This is at this point. There's so much about Coronavirus that we don't know COVID-19 that we don't know. And so the whole high risk category for diabetic that has been determined simply based on the fact that these are the people who are showing up in the hospitals. Stacey Simms 9:46 So let's talk about the vaccine trial, get the call. Helene Cooper 9:49 I get the call. I freak out. I call my friend first I called my normal doctor but she's very super cautious and her response was like Why does it have to You. So I was like, Okay, I'll Park this somewhere for a second. And I called my friend, Kendall Marcus, who's an infectious disease specialist. Her response was immediate, she was like, vaccines are super safe, you should do it. And for Kendall to be just complete, like, usually she's cautious, too. And she's like, you got to be careful. But it was just complete. No, you should do it. And so I got a, you know, we talked through it. And she, you know, explained some very complicated sounding stuff about how they work because I thought they were going to be putting a little bit of COVID in me, and but she said that the modern no one was not that is messenger RNA is basically tricking your body into making antibodies by feeding you a little bit of mRNA, that makes your body think that it has COVID. So she was like, there's no chance that you could catch it from this, when there's no chance that you could give it to anybody from this. And so I went, I showed up for my appointment, it was on a Wednesday, they give you it's, you're there, I was there for three hours, they gave me a COVID test, the nasal swab, because if it comes back positive, you're not going to be in the truck, because there's no point of you being in the truck. They gave me a lot of time, they gave me a full physical, took blood made me take a pregnancy test. There's all this stuff. And towards the end, then, is when I got the shot where the doctor was like, Okay, you've been randomized, you know, the blind woman is like the double the unblinded person is coming. Because of course I hadn't read they told me all of that in a sheet that they sent me that read talking about that, which is my own fault. And then the nurse came in with the vaccine, and she was not even looking at me and as a reporter, I'm, like, filled with questions. It was like, Are you kidding me? Like, is that what is that? Is that the placebo? Is that the vaccine? Which one? Is it? Going through all of this? I want to make sure I you know, I'm getting the vaccine, I know placebo, and she was just like, you need to just, you know, she said nothing. Stacey Simms 12:00 Well, yeah, if anybody else knows besides that person, then it can be, it can ruin the whole study! Helene Cooper 12:07 I got so much s--t from people when I put that in the article that I was harassing the woman about this dude, like you're violating the sanctity of the study. But it's just like, you kind of want to know if you got the placebo vaccine. When you posted your story in my facebook group for the podcasts. People were very well they Yeah, not pleased. No. Stacey Simms 12:30 But I can tell your personality, right? Yes, Unknown Speaker 12:33 you can laugh. No worries. Stacey Simms 12:36 One of the questions that actually came up in the Facebook group was whether you were the only person with diabetes in the trial. Now obviously, you don't know anybody else. Helene Cooper 12:42 But it was. I am not because ever since I wrote that story I've gotten a lot of people have tweeted me, including type one diabetics were in the trial who have been and there's this one guy who's been so great, because he's like, let me tell you what happened to me I'm in the same type of trial. It's like his was with Pfizer. I think mine is butchering it, but it's the same technology. And he was like, the first shot felt totally normal, just like you and then the second shot, my sugar level shot up, I was sick for 36 hours and then it went away. And he was like, but it was just as if I had you know, how you get when you're diabetic with a flu, your sugar level goes high and all that kind of stuff. I was like, that means you got the vaccine. And he was like, well, be careful. You know, because just the cuz you sound like you don't think you're You got it, but I didn't I didn't think I got it when I got the first shot. And the second shot was like, Huh, so now I'm worried about the second shot. Stacey Simms 13:32 Well, I was gonna ask you, did you have any kind of reaction blood sugar wise to the first one? Nope, nothing. I mean, Helene Cooper 13:37 just some aches and pains. Um, some muscle joint, which I don't, I think was because I was camping on the beach. And I got like the the I got the stuffing pounded out of me by these ferocious waves was Stacey Simms 13:51 curious if you asked your friend who said what if they give you the vaccine, and then they want you to test it by wandering around a hotspot? I can't imagine that's actually part of any clinical trial. Helene Cooper 14:02 I would think wouldn't you do that in phase one? It's not part of phase three. But what's the What is it? Wouldn't phase one be remember? Did you see Contagion? Stacey Simms 14:14 Right. But she did that on her own? Helene Cooper 14:16 Yeah, but they got it tested some kind of way. How are they going to find out if it works if they don't see if it works? If they don't expose people to it? Yeah, shape or form. I mean, he was getting at. I got a lot of grief for that for putting that in the story. But I thought that was a very legitimate question to ask. And as a non medical person, that's what you're gonna wonder. Stacey Simms 14:42 Okay, I'm gonna jump in here for just a couple of minutes. If you are wondering about that point yourself or maybe you are screaming at the two of us in frustration. Here's the real deal about how they do vaccine trials. Once participants get a vaccine will the researchers intentionally expose them, right? That's what we're talking about here. Will the researcher send a lien into a crowd of people as in the movie Contagion? Which, if you haven't seen it, it's a 2011 movie. It's all about if you haven't guessed, it's all about a pandemic. There were scientists who worked on that movie and made it very realistic and therefore quite terrifying. But to the question of did they send people who got the vaccine out into infected crowds? No, of course not. That is unethical. I did a little bit of looking into this. And so here's what most of the publications say, because there are still no effective therapies to prevent someone exposed to COVID-19. from falling seriously ill intentionally exposing patients is a no go. Instead, the idea is to observe the number and severity of naturally occurring infections. Among the many thousands of volunteer participants who receive vaccines, or placebos. If there are notably fewer infections, or milder infections among the vaccinated group, that's how they tell the vaccine is working. So I want you to take a moment and clarify that and we will go right back to my talk with Helene in just a moment. But first, diabetes Connections is brought to you by Real Good Foods. We've been enjoying Real Good Foods for almost two years now. And I got to tell you, I think with all of their new products, everything's great. But the pizza that we started with is really still our favorite. And we got an air fryer A while back. And that has really taken stuff like this to the next level. Although my I shouldn't say that because my husband still prefers to heat up the pizza, in a frying pan, or saucepan, kill, just heat it up that way. I don't know, maybe he doesn't wanna get the air fryer out. But to me, it's crisp beer, it tastes better, one less pan to wash at the end of the day, you can find out more about where to buy Real Good Foods. Our whole line is available in Walmart and local grocery stores. You can also find everything online, go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the Real Good Foods logo. Now back to my conversation with Helene, where we are finishing up talking about that movie Contagion. And obviously, that movie was worked on by experts. Stacey Simms 17:14 We've all heard all those stories but I haven’t watched it since COVID. Started, I can't bring myself out Helene Cooper 17:16 a good No, you gotta go do it. I did it. And I like it'll, it'll, it'll make you even more careful. I watched it in March. I was like, Oh, hell no. Stay. Oh, Stacey Simms 17:30 I will. Alright, I'll have to go back and look at that, then what happens? Is it a second shot? And then you're done? Or do you? I mean, they'll follow you. But are you done? Not Helene Cooper 17:38 that they follow you up? Um, there's an app that you have to...