Rohr-Kirchgraber Participates in AstraZeneca Vaccine Trial

When Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD, got word of the clinical trial for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, she knew it was something she had to do.

“I have done lectures on the need for more women and underrepresented minorities in clinical trials, so when this one came across my desk, I felt obligated and wanted to be part of the solution,” she said.

Rohr-Kirchgraber heard of the trial when she was in her previous position at Indiana University School of Medicine.

She had signed up with All in for Indiana- an organization that sends out notices when volunteers are needed for clinical trials and emailed the organization back requesting to be in the trial.

Before the trial began in September of 2020, Rohr-Kirchgraber was interviewed and given physical exams and blood work to make sure she was a good, healthy candidate for the process.

“I was then randomized to the vaccine arm of the trial which meant I got the vaccine a couple of months before one was available for everyone else,” she said. “I had blood drawn and repeat interviews assuming they were looking for antibody levels. I also had to fill out a weekly survey that was looking for symptoms.”

Once physicians were able to get the vaccine, Rohr-Kirchgraber was unblinded in the trial so she could ensure that she had been vaccinated.

“I have participated in clinical trials in the past and felt it was important to move science along as quickly as possible. Being a Hispanic woman, I know we need more data on these groups, so I try to participate whenever possible,” she said.

Rohr-Kirchgraber said she was glad she participated in the trial.

“Before getting vaccinated, I stayed apart from my family and did not see them for over 10 weeks. I could take walks around the neighborhood and yell hello as I passed them on the other side of the street, but it was a lonely time. It was so scary to not know when you would get infected but knowing it was coming,” said Rohr-Kirchgraber. “Vaccinations save lives and as a physician, it is even more important. Caring for my patients, I certainly want them to stay healthy and having the vaccine means not only can I see them without concern for me bringing something home, but I feel safer that I am not giving the patients anything.”

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