Thursday, June 24, 2010


It has been a while since I posted, but I am currently participating in a bird flu vaccine study that has me in an isolation unit for 12 days so I am planning lots of posts over the next several days. The study is being done by the University of Rochester and is an investigational nasal vaccine. This is the second time it has been tested on humans and so far most volunteers have not reported symptoms. Those who have had symptoms reported them to be very mild and localized (stuffy/runny nose). I received the vaccine yesterday morning and have had no symptoms at all. The reason for the isolation is that the vaccine, like many vaccines, contains weakened, yet living flu virus. By keeping us isolated, it keeps us from spreading this into the general population and causing an outbreak.

The isolation itself is not terrible. Obviously, I have Wi-Fi and I planned ahead and brought lots of stuff to do with me. The food is hit or miss, sometimes it is great and other times it is terrible. I planned ahead for that too and brought a bottle of Red Hot and some sea salt with me so I am able to doctor up the not so great food and make it much more palatable. Plus, we set up the home computer and the laptop with Skype so the kids and I can at least see each other during this time.

I am sure some of you are asking yourselves why in the world would someone volunteer for this. I wish I could give you a noble answer and say I am doing it for the greater good of mankind, but that would be an outright lie. The truth is, I am not a fan of flu vaccines for those who are not at high risk. My family and I do not routinely get any flu vaccines at all. I do take comfort in knowing that if there is a massive outbreak of bird flu in the near future, that I will be one of only a few people vaccinated and therefore able to truly assist my community. However, the real reason I am doing this is that the pay was phenomenal and with my dear husband recently losing his job, we really need the money. I have also educated myself on medical research over the years and I know that while the medications are investigational, they are generally pretty safe. In fact, my husband participated in one a few years ago that was for high blood pressure medication. By the end of the study, his blood pressure was back in a normal range and his frequent nose bleeds had stopped. Eight years later, things are still the same for him.

If you have ever considered participating in medical research studies, I encourage you to look into them. Some do require you take an investigational medication, some you may get the medicine or you may get a placebo, and some are simply a matter of donating your blood for study. My kids and I are also currently participating in a family flu study where twice a year we go and have a vial of blood drawn. We also record any flu symptoms during flu season and if one of us has flu symptoms, we go in for a nasal and throat culture. There is no requirement to get the flu shot and no medications are given through the study. The best part is that each time we go in, each child receives a $25 Toys R' Us gift card and I get a $25 check. Plus the past two years, they have also given me a $30 Wegman's gift card during our spring visit. With 4 kids, that equals over $200 in Toys R' Us gift cards each year for doing nothing more than giving a little blood.

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