The county executive spoke about his experience as one of the participants in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trials.By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Seeing the Moderna Vaccine move closer to the arms of the American public is a particular point of pride for many in our area who worked on the vaccine or were involved in the clinical trials.

Among them was Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald who rolled up his sleeve and took the needle.

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“Having known that it looks like the most successful one of the highest percentage of positive ethical efficacy,” he said. “Sure, I’m happy that that’s the one I’m in.”

Shumway: “Was there any hesitation or trepidation on your part? The idea that you were going to be a guinea pig?
Fitzgerald: “Yes, I did not say yes immediately. I, I said let me think about it. And then I went home and talked to my wife was a pharmacist. And I talked to my daughter who’s a surgeon, and they were both very positive so that not that again and then Dr. Brogan was very polite so three people that I trust. Were very positive about it.”

While the county executive turned test subject says there was no reaction from the first shot, that was not the case for dose two.

“After the second shot,” he said, “I did get about 12 hours later, about a day later — some of the reactions that Dr. Martin and her team suggested might happen. She predicted it exactly right. I had about a 12-hour slight fever. I probably would not have known about the fever had I not been taking my temperature to log in to their study. I had a little bit of ache, and a little bit of fatigue. It lasted about 12 hours, and that was it.”

The vaccine trial for Fitzgerald isn’t over.

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“They want you to continue in the study, meaning they want to continue to draw blood and check your vitals and all the type of things and see if you do get some other reaction that may occur,” he said. “So they’ll continue, they’re asking us to continue in the study which I will do.”

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Being on the front lines of trying to control the spread, Fitzgerald knows all too well how important it is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“Certain industries as we know, you know the hospitality industry, the restaurant industry, have really been affected by this so until people have confidence that we can get back to normal without putting people’s you’re putting your health at risk,” he said. “You know, people aren’t going to go on airplanes, they’re not going to go to hotels, they’re not going to travel they’re not going to go to restaurants, they’re not going to go to Steeler games or concert venues are the offer of the symphony and you know all these different things that that we need to open the economy up so that’s that I think that’s the goal was to make sure we get as many people vaccinated. Protect as many people as quickly as we can.”

Shumway: “Is there really much more Allegheny County could do to try and shut down the spread.”
Fitzgerald: “This is really one of those things that people have to want to do by themselves because you’re asking people, number one to wear a mask. And number two, stay away from other people, and keep the distance physical distance. Now you can have all kinds of regulations about business and about, you know, public buildings and all those type of things but you know people are going to do what they feel comfortable doing or what they feel they maybe have the right to do. We can put all kinds of laws and orders in place. But if people, ultimately aren’t going to want to make it happen. It’s going to make it very difficult.”

Fitzgerald says a lot of the cases in the current surge can be tied back to Thanksgiving gatherings.

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Whether the new restrictions put in place last Saturday will deter a further holiday spike won’t be known until mid-January.