All of Us

My Citizen Engagement in COVID-19 Research

by Douglas B Quine

In March 2020 when COVID-19 was a hot new topic, a COVID-19 Smartphone application was launched by the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (where I was born) and King's College (London) to capture real-time data on possible COVID symptoms, infections, tests, and vaccinations. I enrolled a month later in early April 2020 and have been reporting my health status (almost) every day since.

The APP requests volunteers report daily any symptoms of COVID, any COVID cases, any COVID tests, and any COVID vaccinations. With 4.7 million other volunteers in the US, UK, and Sweden, the study has gained significant insights into early indications of COVID infection, vaccine rates and effectiveness. (Summary of results from the Harvard Gazette.)

On December 22, 2020, when COVID vaccines were in early deployment, I volunteered to participate in a multi-year Veterans Affairs COVID vaccine antibody study. In the morning before I received my first vaccine at the VA where I work, blood samples were taken to measure my COVID antibody baseline. A month later, and at regular intervals thereafter, further blood samples were taken to monitor my immune response to the initial Pfizer vaccine and the second Pfizer vaccine. From these data it became clear that the antibody response faded through time in the study group. This provided objective evidence in support of booster vaccinations 8 months later. In response to that change in the vaccine protocol, additional samples were collected before the Pfizer (3rd shot) booster shot. DNA samples have also been taken to see whether there are any correlations between genome and antibody response (or failure to respond). The study now has 13 months of data from me and is scheduled to run for over 2 years on each volunteer.

Although I am not engaged in doing COVID research myself, it is rewarding to be able to help the scientific effort and Public Health initiatives by participating as an early volunteer in these studies which provide evidence to make decisions about next steps.