ENTERPRISE —Steven Busch wasn’t concerned about getting the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Neither was his daughter, Amy Busch, who is a public relations and development director for the Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness.
Both said they trusted the science that led to the development of the vaccine — Steven Busch so much so that he was among some 3,000 individuals in San Diego who took part in the trials for the vaccine last summer.
Amy, meanwhile, recently received her second shot of the vaccine, given she is a member of the health care field who qualified to get vaccinated under Phase 1A in Oregon.
“The real reason I did it (is because) the only way we are going to get out of this pandemic is we need people to be vaccinated,” Steven Busch, 68, said of why he took part in the trial.
Being part of a trial for a drug in its early stages of testing could be nerve racking for some, but wasn’t for Steven Busch.
“I had no fear,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about it. That’s why I wanted to do it.”
He learned of San Diego being selected as a trial city last July, and immediately reached out to regional health officials, offering to take part.
“They needed 3,000 people in the city of San Diego of diverse background (and) ages,” said Busch, who added he also has mild hypertension and believed he would be a good candidate. “I didn’t hear back for three weeks. They probably (got) inundated. I got called about the third week of August. I went in the following week thinking it was the prescreening, (but) once they see you they pretty much want you.”
Busch was given his first shot, then a second 28 days later. He tracked his temperature daily, kept an e-diary and checked in weekly. He also was to check in if he ended up ill.
Though he wasn’t initially told if he was given the vaccine or a placebo, he suspected he had the real deal, which turned out to be the case.
He never had anything more than mild side effects to the vaccine, including some arm soreness and a minor headache. He was able to operate as normal, and didn’t have to be “holed up” as he put it.
“I even went fishing out at sea for a week,” he said. “They couldn’t call me, but I got on the ship to shore and called them.”
He was consistently tested for COVID-19 and had blood drawn on several occasions during the early stages of the study.
Steven Busch will actually be part of the study for two years as long-term effects are looked at.
The Moderna vaccine was developed using mRNA rather than the actual virus itself. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, messenger RNAs, as they are called, “…teach our cells how to make a protein — or even just a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”
mRNAs have been studied for about 10 years, and Amy Busch said they have been used on other diseases, such as ebola. The CDC site noted mRNA vaccines have been studied on the flu, Zika and rabies, as well.
“They’ve been with us for so long, which is why we were able to get a vaccine so quickly,” she said. “It’s been really exciting science. They are looking at it for cancer, as well.”
Her background knowledge of mRNAs made her confident that even though the vaccine was still in its early stages, her dad would be OK being part of the trial.
“I was proud,” she said. “I thought it was so cool that he was willing to do that for our communities across the nation and for the world, really. I was kind of jealous. Being in a small town we don’t really have that opportunity. It was in larger cities where they could draw a larger population.”
Like her father, Amy Busch had very mild side effects, including soreness and a headache.
“I did it because I care about this place,” she said. “I care about the people we serve at Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness. If this is a way I can give back to my community this is how I give back.”
Both see the importance of the vaccine, and Amy Busch said people who have concerns should meet with their doctor.
“Our local doctors and primary care providers are doing a really good job at tracking the research and tracking the data. They have great knowledge,” she said. “They want to talk to our community about the vaccine, go through the pros and cons (with people). If you have health concerns, they will understand what those health concerns are, (and) why it would be good if you get the vaccine or not.
“Having that heart-to-heart is really important.”