Bay Area participant in Pfizer vaccine trial hopeful for long-term immunity

Steve Wotovich of Redington Beach does not know if he got Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine -- or a placebo.

His participation in the trial came with a self-test kit, just in case he got sick.

"They will send a courier to pick it up, off your door, after they instruct you how to self swab," Wotovich explained.

Other than a few colds and some side-effects after receiving doses on Aug. 31st and Sept. 21, he says his experience as a guinea pig was unremarkable. That's even after someone at his workplace had COVID-19.

MORE: Pfizer says early data signals COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective

"The exposure was kind of frightening," he said. "I was like, 'Don't worry, I am vaccinated. Maybe I am vaccinated.' I was counting five or 10 days, wondering if I was going to get sick."

He didn't.

Ninety-four people in Pfizer's 44,000-participant trial got COVID-19 within a week of the second dose. Researchers say 90% of those infected had gotten the placebo.

Pfizer gave trial participants a COVID-19 self-test kit.

"That is incredibly high efficacy for a vaccine," said Dr. Michael Teng of University of South Florida Health. "This is on the order of the measles virus. This is one of the best vaccines out there."

The key now is continuing the trial, to watch for safety concerns and whether the efficacy wears off. Pfizer expects to have up to 20 million doses ready by the end of the year.

"For emergency use authorization, the people who get the vaccine will be the frontline workers, the first wave will be health professionals, first responders," said Teng.

Wotovich, meanwhile, expects to be watched by researchers for at least two years. He hopes Pfizer finds that the vaccine's effectiveness never wears off.

"When I called my parents this morning, they were ecstatic," he said.