Former Hawkeye participates in COVID-19 vaccine trial

Ashley Vanorny
Ashley Vanorny says, “I told myself if I was ever healthy and able and available to participate in (clinical) studies, I would.”

While the current Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial isn’t Ashley Vanorny’s first clinical trial, it may have the most far-reaching implications. Vanorny says her motivation for volunteering as a participant comes from her alma mater.

“I think it’s the culture of being a Hawkeye,” says the Cedar Rapids City Council Member and former UI template analyst. “When I was a undergraduate psychology student, volunteering for research became a part of our curriculum. I told myself if I was ever healthy and able and available to participate in studies, I would.”

After witnessing COVID-19 put people’s lives on hold, Vanorny wanted to be part of the solution, as a citizen and as a Hawkeye.

This Pfizer trial at UI Health Care has such broad implications. UI Health Care is world-renowned for their research and education; clinical trials are one of the things they do best. They’ve always made me feel extremely safe as a patient.

— Ashley Vanorny

Safety first

Clinical trials often follow similar protocols and the COVID-19 vaccine trial was no different, says Vanorny.

“With the Pfizer trial, patient safety continues to be a priority and all protocols are being followed,” she says. “You give a urine sample at each visit; you have your blood drawn. With the first vaccination I had, there was just some localized pain. A month later, I had the second vaccination.”

A double-blind study is a randomized clinical trial where neither the participant/patient or the researcher knows if a treatment or a placebo is being administered. The advantage of a double-blind approach is that results are less likely to be biased.

“After having that second vaccination one morning, I did experience some mild chills and ran a low fever that evening,” she recalls. “But 24 hours later, I felt fine.”

A call to action

After taking part in a half dozen clinical trials, Vanorny is a firm believer in giving back. It’s why she chose to run for city council, why she serves on the Linn County Foster Review Board, and why she’s active in Junior League. Vanorny encourages everyone healthy enough to consider volunteering for clinical trials.

“Go in and ask all your questions, don’t hold back if you have fears or concerns,” she says. “When you’re in a two-year study like the Pfizer trial, you have to be fully committed to seeing it through.”

Varnorny’s next step in the trial is a follow-up appointment in January. She looks forward to the day when the vaccine is publicly released and is glad she could play a part in this trial.

“I have developed quite a good friendship with the staff in the research office and department, especially my nurse, Deb Pfab,” she says. “I’ve worked with her for many years now; she’s just such an incredibly kind person. If anyone is lucky enough to have Deb as their research nurse and coordinator, then they’re very fortunate.”

Are you interested in taking part in a UI Health Care clinical trial?