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Reverend Elvin Clayton of Walter’s Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Bridgeport participated in the clinical trial for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, attests to the vaccine’s safety and urges everyone to get vaccinated.


 

Beating COVID-19: “This is what we all have to do”

Misconceptions about the coronavirus and vaccination persist even as the virus has infected more than 39 million people in the U.S. and claimed over 630,000 American lives. Many of those who recover experience ongoing health issues.

“There is a misconception that just older people or those with underlying conditions suffer complications from COVID-19, but that is simply not true," said John-Ross Clarke, MD, chief medical resident, Bridgeport Hospital. “The virus can have effects in people who were asymptomatic (never had symptoms) and didn’t know they had the virus. I have particularly seen this in young people.” 

Vaccination is the way forward in returning to normal, Dr. Clarke explained. “Especially with new variants circulating in Connecticut, the more people who get vaccinated, the more people who will be protected against these more contagious strains.”

All three vaccines administered in the U.S. are highly effective at preventing severe illness from all variants of COVID-19 identified in the state. 

Reverend Elvin Clayton knows the importance of vaccination during a pandemic. The pastor of Walter's Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Bridgeport encourages as many people as possible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is what we all have to do to beat this thing,” he said. “The best and fastest way to get there is for all of us to get vaccinated.”

One common misconception is that the COVID-19 vaccines were “rushed” and not vetted properly. Not true, says Gregory Buller, MD, associate chief medical officer and chair of Medicine, Bridgeport Hospital. “Researchers spent years developing the technology that would make these vaccines possible,” he said. “The COVID-19 vaccines were studied with the same rigor as others. Yale New Haven Health participated in the final phase, Phase 3, of the Pfizer vaccine’s clinical trial, so we saw first-hand the thoroughness of the study.” (Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for individuals age 16 and over, and remains available under emergency use authorization for individuals age 12 to 15 and as a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals and as a booster for others who meet eligibility requirements.) 

Reverend Clayton was a participant in the Phase 3 clinical trial, in which participants didn’t know if they received the vaccine or a placebo. As a Cultural Ambassador for the Yale School of Medicine, he understands the importance of including people of different ethnic backgrounds as clinical trial participants. The Cultural Ambassadors program educates leaders of New Haven’s African American and Latino populations about clinical trials.

“I made up my mind early on that I would be a part of the COVID-19 study because I thought it was a necessary thing, especially for people of color,” he said. “I didn’t have any doubts because I knew the scientists behind the vaccine study were putting everything they had into making it safe and effective.”

Reverend Clayton wondered if he received the placebo during the clinical trial because he did not experience any side effects. When Pfizer released the results of the study, he discovered he did receive the vaccine. 

Even after telling people about his experience in the Pfizer trial and sharing vaccine facts, Reverend Clayton says some people are still hesitant. He understands, and offers some advice.

“Listen to the scientists. Have a conversation with your doctor and look at the number of people this disease has taken from us,” he said. “I am a pastor, not a doctor, but in my opinion, you have two choices—get the vaccine or get the virus. I think our choice should be to get the vaccine.”

COVID-19 vaccines are available at select Yale New Haven Health locations, and at other locations across the state.