‘Leap of faith’ puts Belcher in Covid trial

Tom KingFarragut, Loudon

The decision was not easy or quick. It was a thoughtful, cautious and prayerful process that Megan Belcher used. Gutsy decision, too. Eight days ago she became part of a nationwide human clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. The Volunteer Research Group began injecting its first volunteers with a coronavirus vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

Megan Belcher

Why take such a risk?

“I had this really strong urge to do this. I don’t usually do things like this. But I feel like we have lost so much and if there’s something I can do to help I would. I felt compelled to do it and I’m at peace.”

Belcher, 37, is a member of the Rotary Club of Farragut and a banker at United Community Bank in Lenoir City. She and husband Damen live in West Knox County with their two kids, Grace, 11, and Preston, 7.

The volunteers at UT Medical Center were divided and half received a placebo and the rest the COVID vaccine. Megan quickly learned she got the vaccine.

“My right arm hurt for four days and I had mild flu-like symptoms for two or three days and felt really cruddy. I had a low-grade fever, too, but this didn’t impact my daily activities.”

She and Damen did their research. He decided to join in and had his first injection this past Monday. With no symptoms today, he apparently got the placebo. Megan returns on Friday, Aug. 28, for a second injection and a blood test follows in September.

The Pfizer drug is among a handful of vaccines in the late stages of testing. Pfizer is part of the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” and hopes to have a vaccine ready by the end of 2020.

“This vaccine tells my body to create a piece of the virus, and my body should then produce antibodies to fight Covid,” she explained. “I can’t get Covid from this test. Some say this is controversial, even some friends and family wondered why I would do this, but I had to because the virus has taken so much from so many.”

She and Damen are part of this nationwide testing that will include 30,000 volunteers. Volunteer Research Group is looking for more people to take part in the studies. Volunteers will be compensated. Info: 865-305-3784.

“My hope is that this was a step towards being able to hug my family and friends again, without fear and the rewards outweighed any risks in my mind,” she said. “It was a giant leap of faith.”

To explore membership in the Rotary Club of Farragut, email tking535@gmail.com or call 865-659-3562. Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers.

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