April Ryan explains why she’s interested in a ‘mix and match’ COVID-19 vaccine trial

"My concern in no way diminishes the effectiveness of any vaccine," Ryan says about her choice.

The hunt for answers in the midst of this crisis continues. I am a journalist and most importantly a human being who is sorting out the fact that there is misinformation on the latest efforts to stay COVID-19 free with the latest vaccinations. 

One vaccine has received FDA approval — Pfizer. And the two others, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, are in the queue waiting for that government seal of approval for their boosters.

I received the Johnson and Johnson vaccination on March 4, 2021 by surprise during a mass vaccination appointment at the M&T Bank stadium in Baltimore. Originally, I was supposed to receive the Pfizer inoculation. However, a new option hit the market with emergency authorization two days prior. 

In retrospect, Americans were told to listen to the science and take the vaccine that is offered. I did just that when I took the J&J vaccine.

A health worker gives a man a shot of the Jenssen COVID-19 vaccine from the Johnson & Johnson - theGrio.com
A health worker gives a man a shot of the Jenssen COVID-19 vaccine from the Johnson & Johnson. (Photo by Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images)

I know of people who did well and some who had other experiences with the vaccinations. It took 11 days for me to come out of brain fog, fatigue, chills, headaches and more that was associated with the first J&J one dose. 

But now, armed with more information and on the other side of the severe side effects I exhibited from my first dose, I would like to switch my vaccine combination. I am now interested in joining a mix and match medical trial for those who would like to take a booster from another vaccine maker. In my case, I would be open to a Pfizer or Moderna shot. 

My concern in no way diminishes the effectiveness of any vaccine. I just want to be aligned with what is considered by many to be the number one vaccine, Moderna or the number two, Pfizer. Johnson and Johnson has been studied and considered to be the least effective among the options, however all three emergency use vaccines are said to prevent death and disability.  

As a person with underlying health conditions, it’s extremely important to have the highest level of protection. While I know there are no absolutes in this moment and as the months run on during the pandemic, I believe changing my vaccination course is the best way to fend off severe illness due to COVID-19.

Michelle Chester, DNP, director of employee health services at Northwell Health, shows the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital on December 21, 2020 in Valley Stream, New York. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images)

Throughout my COVID-19 vaccine journey, I have consulted with my doctor, Dr. Jehan El-Bayoumi. With her full support, I have placed my name on the list to be considered for the University of Maryland Mix Match trial

Dr. El-Bayoumi thinks I would be more closely watched in a trial in case of any adverse reaction. 

For someone such as myself, who is seeking change but also factoring in underlying conditions, it’s better to transition to another vaccine and be under a doctor’s care. A trial will allow medical professionals to watch the switch, and as part of a study I will help others in my predicament.  

I never thought I would feel this way.

It reminds me of my mother’s journey in her last months as she battled Acute myeloid Leukemia in 2007. She was part of a trial at Johns Hopkins for medicine that extended her life by three months.

April Ryan thegrio.com
(Photo: Roy Cox)

She entered the trial wanting to possibly save her life and help others in the process. Her healing did not come on this side, however, she was part of research that one day will help beat a disease that robs so many families.

I am aware of the medical trial stories and fears, but for me now, the benefits of this trial could outweigh not being part of it.  

Personally, I am someone who has taken the flu vaccine, and other vaccines, and view the COVID-19 vaccine as no different. Like most, I waited for information on vaccinations before I jumped in to get the shot.  

Now, with more information available and options on the table. I’m ready to move forward and make myself available to scientists who are racing to beat the virus.

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