‘It’s a Big Deal to Me,’ Metro Man Volunteered for Clinical Trial After Relatives Died of COVID-19

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Joseph Jones believes in public service. He serves as executive director of the Harkin Institute, a member of the Windsor Heights City Council, an instructor at Drake University, a mentor for students, and a board member and adviser for numerous organizations. For him, the decision to volunteer to take part in Pfizer’s clinical trial for the COVID-19 vaccine was an easy one.

“That’s my passion in life,” Jones said of his commitment to service.

In August, Jones traveled to the University of Iowa to receive his first of two doses in the trial. Participants don’t know whether they received the vaccine or a placebo, but Jones said that he hopes to learn sometime soon what he had. If he didn’t receive the actual vaccine, he would like to receive it when he is eligible.

Last week, Pfizer started shipping doses of the newly-approved vaccine to Iowa. This week, Moderna sent its vaccine.

Jones is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana. The virus claimed the lives of family members back home.

“There’s so many people I lost back in Louisiana from the virus and seeing other people not taking it seriously (the virus’ threat). And so it’s been it’s been tough,” Jones said.

Jones said that it is especially rewarding to see the first Iowans getting immunized with the vaccine that he helped researchers study.

“Watching the health care workers receive their vaccines on TV has been really, really spiriting for me,” Jones said, “and knowing that all of us are going to have to spend our holidays in a different way than we had before…away from our families and friends…I think it gives a glimmer of hope in the future we won’t have to.”

Jones said that he hasn’t had any side effects from his two doses, other than a really sore arm. Researchers plan to study Jones and the other 269 Iowa participants for two years to see how they react to taking part in the study.

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