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Aug. 8, 2020, 9:12 a.m. EDT

This Seattle man volunteered to be injected with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine: ‘It was kind of my duty as a healthy individual to step up’

Neal Browning is one of the volunteers who signed up to receive Moderna’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine

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By Jaimy Lee

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MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto, Neal Browning
Neal Browning was an early volunteer for an experimental COVID-19 vaccine

<STRONG>This interview is the second in a series of conversations MarketWatch will conduct with some of the leading voices in the U.S. on the COVID-19 pandemic.</STRONG>

Neal Browning, a 46-year-old network engineer at Microsoft Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +1.48% , was one of the first people in the U.S. to receive a dose of Moderna Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +0.33%  experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

The father of three volunteered for the Phase 1 clinical trial in February, within a month of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. and Moderna announcing plans to develop a vaccine for what was then called the novel coronavirus.

A handful of vaccine candidates who have entered the clinic in the U.S. reported interim results from the first phase of testing; however, Moderna, a preclinical biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Mass., was the first to do so. Eight of the trial’s 45 participants developed neutralizing antibodies, thought to be a key benchmark in creating a vaccine that will protect to some degree against future COVID-19 infections.

Browning as well as some other participants in the trial have spoken publicly about their experience in the trial, whether they suffered side effects, and why they decided to volunteer to take a dose of a vaccine that has yet to prove its safety or efficacy. This is rare, in the world of high-stakes clinical trials, primarily because most trials for treatments enroll the sick, and not the healthy, as is required for vaccines in the early phases of testing.

“I felt like it was kind of my duty as a healthy individual to step up,” Browning, a resident of Bothell, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, told MarketWatch.

MarketWatch: What made you decide to enroll in a trial like this?

Neal Browning: Well, being in the Seattle area, and actually living about 4 miles from where the first cluster outbreak happened at the retirement community really put things into perspective for me. We had the first confirmed case in the U.S. in my state. We had the first confirmed cluster outbreak and the first confirmed death. Seeing how this was affecting my local community, the fact that I grew up in a medical household — my mom’s a registered nurse, my fiancé’s a registered nurse — and I have young children [and] we always make sure they have their flu shots and their vaccinations done each year, it seemed like this was really a time when humanity needed a kick. I felt like it was kind of my duty as a healthy individual to step up and be an example for my children and show everyone that this is what it takes to live in a cohesive society.

MarketWatch: When did you receive the vaccine?

Browning: The first one was March 16, and the next was 28 days later as a booster. Both were the same dosage amount.

MarketWatch: That was a very intense week. That was when a lot of the formal lockdowns went into place in the U.S. I think it was right around time that Americans realized how serious this pandemic could be.

Browning: Exactly.

MarketWatch: What was that like going into [the clinic] to get the shot on that day?

Browning: I found out about it through a discussion with a friend on Facebook that I’ve known for 20-plus years. He said, “Hey, did you know that Kaiser Permanente’s doing a call-out for people to volunteer for a vaccination trial for COVID-19?” This was back around February 28, 29th, before it’d really started ramping up in the United States. But we’d seen how bad things could get with what was happening in Italy and other countries around the world. By the time the 16th rolled around, as you said, things were really starting to come home and be something you couldn’t deny anymore.

/zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 210.33
+3.07 +1.48%
Volume: 33.78M
Sept. 30, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
36.52
Dividend Yield
1.06%
Market Cap
$1568.47 billion
Rev. per Employee
$902,473
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/zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 70.75
+0.23 +0.33%
Volume: 15.65M
Sept. 30, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$27.83 billion
Rev. per Employee
$177,721
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