Streetsboro council member shares his experience with Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial

Bob Gaetjens
Record-Courier
Streetsboro City Council member John Ruediger was among area participants in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial, which started during the summer.

A Streetsboro City Council member might have been among the first Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine months ago, but he still doesn't know for sure.

Streetsboro City Council member John Ruediger was one of the 30,351 people who participated this summer in the clinical study for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, which recently won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration for emergency use.

However, since the study was double-blinded, Ruediger doesn’t actually know whether he received the vaccine or a placebo. 

“The reason I did this was, I wasn’t working because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I had time on my hands to kill,” he said. “I thought if I could do anything to help us all get back to normal quickly, I was willing to do it.”

He also mentioned that he doesn’t have a wife and family, so there aren’t a lot of other people directly dependent on him if there were serious side effects from vaccine, which he said there weren’t.

“My only real side effect was soreness where the shot went in, which was typical, and maybe a mild headache,” he said. 

More:US gets more help in raging battle against COVID-19 as FDA authorizes Moderna vaccine, the second allowed for emergency use

The most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting, and fever, according to a news release from the FDA announcing the emergency use approval. 

More people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose.

At some point, Ruediger said he will learn whether he was in the placebo group or vaccine group. However, he said there were plans to do a second blind dosage where the placebo group and vaccine group were swapped. 

Jade Svoboda, recruitment manager at Velocity Clinical Research in Beachwood where Ruediger goes for his appointments, said she’s not sure when that may happen. 

“We do not have a date at this time,” she said. “Moderna has not unveiled what their plan is with regards to that.”

Dr. Dan Simon, University Hospitals chief clinical and scientific officer and president of UH Cleveland Medical Center, said UH took part in a similar study for the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech but had no role in the Moderna study. The question of unblinding subjects for the Pfizer study also hasn’t been resolved.

"This is a very controversial topic at the FDA,” he said, explaining that maintaining blindness as long as possible helps provide additional safety information.

Simon said he participated as a subject in the Pfizer study.

“As the benefits of vaccination generally outweigh the risks, I enrolled as a way to say, ‘I believe in it,’” he said. “I did it really because I think it’s very important. It’s the single most important medical trial in my lifetime. I wanted to be a positive example of participating in the trial.”

After participating in the study and seeing the thoroughness firsthand, Ruediger said he’s disappointed at the number of people who don’t trust the vaccine. 

“It just makes me sad that people are spreading so much misinformation about the vaccine," he said.  "It ends up being a political issue instead of a health issue.”

During the course of the study, he estimated he’s had about eight COVID-19 tests.

Ruediger said the experience has meant lots of trips to Velocity Clinical Research's office in Beachwood, particularly after he got sick Dec. 9 with "just normal cold symptoms." 

“Every single day since I got sick, they’ve called me,” he said. “I have to put a saliva sample in the mailbox every other day, and a courier picks it up. The doctor said whenever somebody gets sick they try to get as much data as they can. All the data they compile makes the trial more accurate.”

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at bgaetjens@recordpub.com or @bobgaetjens_rc.