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25% chance: Local doctor, wife receive actual COVID vaccine during trial opposed to placebo

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 5:05 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - As Dr. Randy Hansbrough can be seen covered from head to toe in PPE while making his rounds through the COVID unit, there’s a protective shield you can’t see, and that’s the vaccine.

Dr. Randy Hansbrough making rounds at the hospital while he takes care of COVID patients.
Dr. Randy Hansbrough making rounds at the hospital while he takes care of COVID patients.(Dr. Randy Hansbrough)

“I was lucky enough to get vaccinated,” he said.

That luck first playing out when he and his wife, Jane, were selected to participate in the Moderna vaccine trial back in the summer at Vanderbilt.

“Because of the scientific intensity integrity of the study, they’re not going to tell you what you got. A lot of times, they don’t tell you what they’re doing,” explained Hansbrough.

He didn’t have symptoms after the shots, but his wife did which lessened his belief that he got the vaccine. As Hansbrough was able to get the vaccine due to his line of work, he asked if he could be ‘unblinded’ from the trial. After booking appointments to learn their fate, he and his wife found out that they BOTH received the actual vaccine and not the placebo.

“Which is about a 25% chance that both of us would have gotten it. So we’re pretty lucky. So I immediately went out bought lottery tickets, because I figured that my luck should hold up,” joked Hansbrough.

As a pulmonary doctor, Hansbrough is in and out of both COVID units in Bowling Green and has seen firsthand the bodily impacts of the virus.

“I knew there was only a 50% chance that I would get it. But you know, when something like this happens, you feel kind of helpless,” said Hansbrough. “And you say, well, what can I do other than take care of people and, and one of the things is walking volunteer for a study. They need people to take the vaccine.”

A lot of health care workers participated in the trial indicating that they have faith in the science and hope for protection which is something they wish they could give their patients.

“If you have somebody young passes away, and you’ve been taken care of them, and you’ve been their main human contact for sometimes weeks, it’s really emotionally hard. On the nurses, I think a lot of times respiratory therapists are similar,” said Hansbrough.

While a continually exposed Dr. Hansbrough remained COVID free, it’s unclear whether it’s his PPE or the surprise vaccine he has to thank. Either way, he’s a subject of science and history now bearing an extra shield while on the battleground with the virus.

“I helped with advancing science. So I think that was important, then I think, the other I was lucky enough to get vaccinated. And I was lucky enough to pick a trial where the vaccine was highly effective. And so I think both my wife and I are happy that we did it,” explained Hansbrough. “Compared to the burden of COVID, it’s minuscule, the risk you’re taking.”

Hansbrough and his wife will be monitored for the next several years as part of the trial.

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