‘I’m really rooting for it’: Local mom participates in Kansas City COVID-19 vaccine trial

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — We’re one step closer to a COVID-19 vaccine as at least two companies have now released promising results from their trials. 

Kansas City has played an important part in the process. The city was hand-picked to conduct research that could help make the difference.

Early in the pandemic, Independence mom Heather Wiley knew she had to do something to try to make a difference.

She went online and found that the Alliance for Multispecialty Research in Kansas City was looking for volunteers for phase one of their vaccine trials. She applied in April, and was screened and accepted.

“I was excited.” Wiley said. “I was really happy and couldn’t wait to get started.”

The trial is testing a vaccine from the company, Inovio. They took 60 people, including Wiley’s own sister, Ellie Lilly.

“It has been a really good experience to go through it with my sister and talk about our experiences with each other,” Wiley said.

The doses go just under the skin, followed by electrical pulses to send DNA directly into the cells. It’s a process called electroporation.

“It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been a part of,” Wiley said.

But just a couple months into this trial, Wiley got tough news. Her 18-year-old daughter, Avalon, tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was really scary because you assume she’s going to be fine because she’s young, but you just don’t know,” Wiley said. “There are so many young people who are being hospitalized right now.”

Avalon showed symptoms for a few days, but fully recovered.

Alliance for Multispecialty Research is still pushing forward in its quest to have a successful vaccine. Dr. John Ervin is handling the trials.

“I think we’re talking about the end of the year, toward the early next year [for a vaccine],” he said.

Ervin said phase one was about making sure their vaccine is safe and neutralizing antibodies. Now, he said they’re moving into later phases, which will expand the number of volunteers in the research and add placebos.

He said after phase three, the FDA can approve a vaccine.

“We’re trying to get this done as quickly as we can as long as it’s safe because of the importance of this infection that we’re going through, the worst pandemic since 1918,” Ervin said.

Wiley is optimistic.

“I do believe in this vaccine,” Wiley said. “I believe in the technology behind this vaccine, and I’m really rooting for it.”

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