Each and every person in a clinical trial plays a powerful role. But the decision to join isn’t always an easy one. Read about why Jeff La Marca overcame his fear of needles to become a two-time vaccine clinical trial participant.

When Jeff La Marca first saw the call for clinical trial volunteers on the internet, he asked himself, “Could I do it?”

He wasn’t sure.

Pfizer vaccine clinical trial participant Jeff receiving shot
Pfizer vaccine clinical trial participant Jeff receiving shot

It wasn’t that Jeff had any doubt about the importance of clinical trials. He had learned about that importance firsthand only a few years earlier, after a sudden shortness of breath forced him in for a checkup.

“I ended up needing an emergency quadruple bypass,” Jeff explains. “I was in bad shape for a while there, and there were complications afterwards ... I got really lucky.” Afterwards, Jeff was able to return to his life as a music teacher and professor of special education. “And that’s because of modern medicine,” he says. “If this had happened to me 20 years earlier, I don’t believe I would have survived.”

Jeff was grateful for the second chance he’d been given, and he wanted to help other patients have a second chance too, by participating in clinical trials.

But he had one small problem holding him back: trypanophobia.

In plain English, Jeff had an extreme fear of needles.

Pfizer vaccine clinical trial participant Jeff after receiving shot
Pfizer vaccine clinical trial participant Jeff after receiving shot

So if volunteering for a clinical trial meant he might have to get a shot—well, could he do it?

“Nurses had told me that they’d never seen a grown man more needle-phobic than I was!”

Jeff laughs. “It’s not rational, it’s just what happens—I’m talking about no-kidding, shaking, crying, give-me-a-balloon fear.”

“Part of what helped was that I knew this was a vaccine trial,” Jeff explains. “And my father had polio as a kid. He’d survived it, barely, but he had problems all his life.”

Jeff grew up watching his father struggle with the aftereffects of a disease that had terrorized his generation—a disease which, by the time Jeff was born, had been effectively eradicated from the planet.

The difference had been a vaccine made possible by the people who participated in those clinical trials.

“This wasn’t just about me, this was for the benefit of humanity,” Jeff says. “So, could I face my fears for a chance to help make the world a better place? Absolutely. I could do that.”

That was almost four year ago. Now, Jeff is a veteran of two Pfizer vaccine clinical trials—including, he’s proud to say, the clinical trial for the Pfizer & BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

“I still have to work myself up before I go, and I still want my balloon!” Jeff laughs. “But it’s not every day you get a chance to make the world a better place. It’s an honor to be able to play a part.”

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