'Not throwing away my shot'

December 10, 2020
MUSC employee and COVID vaccine trial volunteer Kelly Warren in a headshot wearing a mask.
Kelly Warren masks up against the coronavirus as she gets ready to participate in a vaccine trial at MUSC. Photos provided

Kelly Warren is a manager with MUSC’s Enterprise Campaigns and University Communications. Warren volunteered to be a participant in the MUSC/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial. She shares her experiences so that others might also feel comfortable receiving the vaccine. This is part one. Read part two here. Read part three here. Read part four here. Read part five here.

Hi, I’m Kelly. True story — I’m participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial. I’m 30, work at MUSC, love being outside, can often be found plotting my next adventure, and, as of last week, I'm a participant in a COVID-19 vaccine trial. 

Like everyone, my year and life have been upended by COVID-19. It’s funny to look back at my January self with big travel plans, anticipated gatherings and celebrations, concert tickets, assumption of annual getaways and nary a mask in sight. And by funny, I mean I’ve perfected the laugh–cry. 

MUSC employee Kelly Warren smiles while hiking. 
Kelly Warren, before COVID, on a hike.

When COVID-19 became a reality, my rule-following personality had no issue following all the guidelines. I stayed home, wore my mask and used sanitizer by the buckets. Soon, though, true to my nature, I was itching to do more. I’m not a researcher, and you don’t want my help in a clinical setting — I took geology in college to get out of the sciences, if that tells you anything. My work in MUSC’s Office of Communications and Marketing was fulfilling, as we got important information out to our colleagues and the public, but I wanted to do something that felt more substantial. 

A few months ago, I learned MUSC would be participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, and I was immediately interested. As I read the information provided and did my own research, I was even more intrigued. And so I signed up to participate. 

As I’ve told people about my participation, I’ve received a range of responses. Some have voiced their concerns about the vaccines. Others asked if I was worried about getting COVID-19 or shared horror stories about someone they heard about through someone on Facebook who participated in a trial. Fortunately, others have been more encouraging and framed this as something for the greater good and asked for more information. 

For me, this is what it boils down to: 

  • I’m young and healthy with no preexisting conditions.
  • I can’t help through scientific contributions, patient care, high–level decision–making, teaching kids or anything on the “front lines,” but this I can do.
  • The FDA, CDC, DHEC and more are involved to make sure it is safe and risks are low.
  • Like everyone, I’m over COVID-19 and would love to return to normal (whatever that means). That’s impossible without a vaccine, which can’t be distributed until it’s well tested.
  • Since I’m single, without kids, or even pets, if I do have any side effects, I don’t have to worry about them affecting anyone else.
  • I’ve done research about how the trial has gone and feel good about what I’ve read.
  • I can be part of history!

And so, last week, I returned to MUSC’s campus for the first time in months to start the COVID-19 vaccine trial.

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