Irving grandparents join a COVID-19 vaccine trial

December 23, 2020

Dallas News

Salma Mushir has not knelt and prayed at her mosque for months. The Irving resident has not seen some family members since March and has not gathered with friends for just as long. So when her physician asked whether she wanted to join the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine trial, she did not hesitate. “The world is in in trouble,” Mushir said. “So many people are suffering, and I had the ability to help.” Mushir, 71, and her husband, Mohamed Mushir, 82, were among the more than 43,000 participants worldwide who joined the Pfizer trial. The vaccine — which was found to be 95% effective after two doses — is now being administered in a phased approach, beginning with front-line health care workers.

The Mushirs, along with some 250 other North Texans, participated in the trial from the office of Dr. Salma Mazhar Saiger, a Mesquite internist who also works in clinical research. Saiger said she asked all the participants why they volunteered. Some had relatives who had died from COVID-19, she said. Others didn’t want their children or grandchildren to grow up amid a pandemic. “When it was time to step up, these volunteers stepped up,” Saiger said. “It took a lot of courage. They are the brave ones.” To qualify, participants underwent thorough physical exams and reviews of their medical histories. They did not, and still do not, know whether they were given the vaccine or a placebo.

Salma Mushir said she had no side effects after her two injections, and her husband said he experienced some soreness in his arm. Researchers have said there are no serious safety concerns involved with receiving the vaccine. Every week, participants record how they feel in a journal as part of the trial, and they will be monitored for two years. The Mushirs — who are members of Dawoodi Bohra, a Shiite Islam sect that hails largely from India — said their friends were initially surprised to learn they had signed up for the trial.

“We hope that by sharing their story, we can educate others about the vaccine and address their concerns,” said Zainab Shipchandler, a public health consultant and member of the same mosque as the Mushirs. “Sometimes hearing from people who look like you can make all the difference.” The Mushirs, who have three children and seven grandchildren, said they most look forward to visiting family when the pandemic has ended. For now, Mohamed Mushir said he encourages his friends and family to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to them.

“This is about the health of the whole world, and we can be part of the solution,” he said. “You are not only helping yourself, but others too.”

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