If Pfizer’s Lyme vaccine gets approved, Kate O’Brian of Vineyard Haven will have some claim to fame on its road to helping prevent Lyme disease.
On Thursday, O’Brian became the first person to receive a dose of the vaccine through the clinical trial that’s underway through Care Access. O’Brian received her dose — or did she? (More about that later) — inside the Care Access trailer on the property of Vineyard Medical Care on State Road in Vineyard Haven.
O’Brian told The Times she was “thrilled to be the first person” on the Island to receive a Lyme disease vaccine through this trial. “Lyme disease is such a problem, particularly here on the Vineyard,” O’Brian said. “Just to be part of an effort to try to get a vaccine is really important.”
O’Brian told The Times receiving the vaccine was “really easy, very professional,” commending the terrific work of the nurses in the mobile unit, who answered every question she had.
There was a buzz outside the trailer on Thursday as Michael Loberg, president of Vineyard Medical Care, and members of the Care Access staff huddled outside next to the trailer.
Care Access has been on the Island since last month, signing up individuals. And while they’ve had great success and enthusiasm about the clinical trial, and they’re booked through next month with people getting their first dose, they still have plenty of slots available, and are looking to sign up more individuals.
“It seems like there’s been a lot of interest in the community in this trial because everybody is familiar with Lyme disease, knows somebody with Lyme disease,” said Alex Eastman, who is head of design for Care Access. “People have an interest in helping the Island and helping the community get rid of Lyme disease.”
Back to how it works. So, O’Brian got a dose on Thursday for sure, but only the technicians are certain whether it was the Lyme vaccine or placebo.
“Some will get what’s called the investigatory or study drug, and some will get a placebo,” Michael Parenteau, a software solutions expert for Care Access, said. “They won’t know. Only the study team administering the trial will know.”
Paranteau went on to say that if the drug gets approved, those involved in the study will be in line to get the drug.
The Lyme disease problem on Martha’s Vineyard has been well-documented. With so many deer and deer ticks, the debilitating disease has become so prevalent that it is the focus of a $10 million research study.
Because of that prevalence, the folks involved in conducting the trial have sensed that people involved really want to be a part of the clinical trials. “Some of them have had Lyme disease and have experienced the severity of the effects of the disease, and they were 100 percent interested,’ Paranteau said. “If this gets approved, they want it.”
The mobile units that Care Access has brought to the Island are what make a clinical trial possible here.
“This is what Care Access can do,” Eastman said. “It gives us the ability to bring trials into communities that wouldn’t normally be able to participate in clinical research. So we have this trailer set up here. We have two other trailers on-Island. So we have more ability for people to sign up.”
Paranteau added, “We’re bringing these research vehicles out to places where research is not happening.” For people on the Island, it would be burdensome to be part of the study if they had to hop a ferry and commute to a brick-and-mortar research facility, he said. “Having a place on the Island where you don’t have to take a ferry, especially given the density of the problem, is pretty cool,” Paranteau said.
There is still time to sign up to be a part of the clinical study. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll go through a screening process to see if you’re eligible. Folks who received an earlier vaccine would not be eligible, for example.
Care Access is looking for children ages 5 and up, as well as adults. Anyone interested should call 877-565-5112 or visit the website at lymetrial.com.
O’Brian, like others, is inspired by the opportunity to make a difference. “If this leads to something where people can get vaccinations and not have to worry about getting Lyme disease, that would be a great thing,” she said. “Too many people I know have gotten Lyme disease. A couple of them have had really bad, long-term effects from it. Anything we can do to prevent that, particularly in a place like the Vineyard where it’s endemic, is a good thing.”
Reporter Eunki Seonwoo contributed to this story.