vaccine trials

South Florida Couple Participates in COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

Laura and Walter Matheric signed up for Johnson & Johnson’s Ensemble 2 trial

NBC Universal, Inc.

Like so many, staying COVID-free was a priority for Laura and Walter Matheric. It was why the couple said they were staying home as much as possible and homeschooling their 4- and 5-year-old daughters.

“I’ve been teaching both at home while I’m also teaching full-time at home,” Laura said.

The 39-year-old college professor said it would likely be months before she could be eligible for one of the two COVID-19 vaccines available.

“I possibly would come up in May,” she said.

But the couple’s wait for some protection against the virus might be over.

“If I were to tell you that mommy and daddy were going to get the coronavirus vaccine, how would that make you feel?” Laura asked her daughters in a video recorded on Feb. 13, when the girls learned their parents might be getting a COVID-19 vaccine as part of a study.

“Happy! Excited!” the girls replied. 

“Wish us luck,” Laura said in the video provided to NBC 6. “Hopefully we get the vaccine today!”

The couple said they, along with five friends, signed up for Johnson & Johnson’s Ensemble 2 trial – a study the drugmaker said on its website will include up to 30,000 participants worldwide and last about two years.

“It was something that came through on my Facebook feeds,” Laura said. “It was a simple thing to sign up.”

Laura, who also has a heart condition, told NBC 6 she joined the trial mainly for two reasons.

“One, it’s a chance I could get in early and be done with it,” she said. “But I also kind of looked at it as also my way to kind of help.”

She said the study requires they get two shots and log their symptoms on an app. They won’t know if they got an actual COVID-19 vaccine for now, she said.

“There’s a 50-50 chance I could get the shot or I could get the placebo,” she said. “And I’m OK with that.”

On Saturday morning, the couple said they drove to Lake Worth to get their first shot.

“The process took about an hour, hour and a half altogether,” she said in a video she recorded documenting the experience for NBC 6.

That night, they shared how they were feeling.

“A little bit of soreness on the injection site,” Walter said.

“I have a 1.5 cm in diameter circle on my shoulder,” Laura said. “It looks like, almost like a mosquito bite. It’s raised and it’s super itchy.”

The following day, Laura was hopeful.

“It’s been 24 hours since I received the injection and I’m so happy to say that I feel sick,” she said. “I have body aches, chills, nausea, my temperature got up to 100.1…so that feels very promising that I probably did not get a placebo.”

Laura said the couple was scheduled to get blood work in March and a second shot in April, adding they could drop out of the study if they wanted to – without penalty.

She also said they were getting paid to participate and they hoped to use that money to eventually take their girls to Disney.

Laura said she did a lot of research before deciding to join the trial and discussed the decision with several doctors who, she said, encouraged her to do it.

You can search a list of vaccine trials currently underway by visiting this website:

If you’re thinking of joining a study, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor first.

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