Let's take a moment to honor the unsung Moderna vaccine trial volunteer who died of COVID-19

It's been nine months since we found ourselves thrust into a global pandemic the likes of which the world hasn't seen in a century. Now here we are on the precipice of administering vaccines that will hopefully put an end to it, many months ahead of the expected schedule.

The speed with which scientists and pharmaceutical companies have raced to figure out how to make a novel virus vaccine both safe and effective has been impressive to say the least. It's a testament to modern medicine, innovation, and dedication on the part of the scientists who have worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

As of today, Moderna is asking for FDA approval of its mRNA vaccine, which trials show to be 94.1% effective in preventing coronavirus infection and 100% effective at preventing severe cases. Pfizer's vaccine has shown similar effectiveness.


While many people may be skeptical of a vaccine created in such a short period of time, experts have expressed confidence in the safety data that's been released so far. But there's one big element to the safety data that doesn't get focused on nearly as much as it should—the courageous volunteers who literally risked their lives so that scientists could learn whether their work actually works and the rest of us can feel safe (or at least safer) getting a new vaccine.

When people volunteer to test new vaccines, they're not only agreeing to whatever surprise side effects the vaccine might cause, but they're also at a higher-than-average risk of being exposed to the disease the trial is testing for. And since trial participants don't know if they are receiving the actual vaccine or a placebo, there is very real risk of having no protection whatsoever from said disease.

While the numbers from the Moderna trial indicate a resounding success, it came with a tragic-but-necessary cost. The way a trial works is that some participants receive the vaccine being tested, and others receive a placebo that doesn't do anything. While none of the actual vaccine recipients became severely ill with COVID-19 in the Moderna trial—which vaccine researcher Paul Offit says is "absolutely remarkable"—30 of the 185 people who contracted symptomatic cases of the virus in placebo group did develop severe cases. And one person in the placebo group died what Moderna has called "a COVID-19-related death."

We don't know the name of the individual who died. But we do know that they knowingly and willingly risked their own life to save millions more, and such a sacrifice should not go unrecognized. Whoever this nameless, unsung hero was, we salute them.

Our gratitude must also extend to those who became severely ill from the virus in the trial, as well as everyone who volunteered to take on the risks to help science do its thing.

So far, there are reported side effects that one might expect from any vaccine—tenderness in the injection spot as well as some people reporting flu-like symptoms for a day or so as the vaccine kicked their body into fighting gear—but they didn't know what unexpected reactions there might be going into it. Volunteers get compensated for travel and time they have to take off of work to go to appointments, but it's not like they're making real money. It's a real sacrifice with an unknown outcome, and many volunteers express that they signed up because they wanted to do something to be helpful.

So thank you to the tens of thousands of people who volunteered to take one for the team, putting their own health on the line to save us from further pandemic suffering. While we celebrate the scientists whose knowledge and skill and collaboration have brought us vaccines in record time, let's also cheer for the everyday folks who offered up themselves as guinea pigs to help us move past the pandemic and help humanity return to normal life. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

Lainey and baby goat Annie. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse
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Oftentimes, the journey to our true calling is winding and unexpected. Take Lainey Morse, who went from office manager to creator of the viral trend, Goat Yoga, thanks to her natural affinity for goats and throwing parties.

Back in 2015, Lainey bought a farm in Oregon and got her first goats who she named Ansel and Adams. "Once I got them, I was obsessed," says Lainey. "It was hard to get me off the farm to go do anything else."

Right away, she noticed what a calming presence they had. "Even the way they chew their cud is relaxing to be around because it's very methodical," she says. Lainey was going through a divorce and dealing with a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis at the time, but even when things got particularly hard, the goats provided relief.

"I found it impossible to be stressed or depressed when I was with them."

She started inviting friends up to the farm for what she called "Goat Happy Hour." Soon, the word spread about Lainey's delightful, stress-relieving furry friends. At one point, she auctioned off a child's birthday party at her farm, and the mom asked if they could do yoga with the goats. And lo, the idea for goat yoga was born.

A baby goat on a yoga student. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse

Goat yoga went viral so much so that by fall of 2016, Lainey was able to quit her office manager job at a remodeling company to manage her burgeoning goat yoga business full-time. Now she has 10 locations nationwide.

Lainey handles the backend management for all of her locations, and loves that side of the business too, even though it's less goat-related. "I still have my own personal Goat Happy Hour every single day so I still get to spend a lot of time with my goats," says Lainey. "I get the best of both worlds."

Lainey with her goat Fabio. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse

Since COVID-19 hit, her locations have had to close temporarily. She hopes her yoga locations will be able to resume classes in the spring when the vaccine is more widely available. "I think people will need goat yoga more than ever before, because everyone has been through so much stress in 2020," says Lainey.

Major life changes like Lainey's can come around for any number of reasons. Even if they seem out of left field to some, it doesn't mean they're not the right moves for you. The new FOX series "Call Me Kat", which premieres Sunday, January 3rd after NFL and will continue on Thursday nights beginning January 7th, exemplifies that. The show is centered around Kat, a 39-year old single woman played by Mayim Bialik, who quit her math professor job and spent her life's savings to pursue her dreams to open a Cat Café in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jeff Harry started making similar moves when he was just 10-years-old, and kept making them throughout his life. After seeing the movie "Big,"Jeff knew he wanted to play with toys for a living, so he started writing toy companies asking for next steps. He finally got a response when he was a sophomore in high school — the company told him he needed to become a mechanical engineer first.

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