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Ebola Vaccine Tester Feels A 'Real Satisfaction'


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

This summer with thousands of people dead and dying from the Ebola virus, the need for a vaccine was urgent. Human safety testing moved into high gear. The NIH rolled out Phase 1. They injected 20 adult volunteers with an experimental vaccine. One of those people was Peter Hubbard. He is a fuels analyst for natural gas and coal companies. He joins us now from WUTC in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Thanks for being with us.

PETER HUBBARD: It's great to be here.

SIMON: First off, how are you feeling?

HUBBARD: I'm feeling quite well, actually.

SIMON: I gather there was no problem finding volunteers to receive this vaccine.

HUBBARD: Well, it's a small study of only 20 volunteers. I think that they probably rounded up those 20 volunteers quite quickly. There was a real urgency to this vaccine trial.

SIMON: We should explain that this - it's not a live virus. The vaccine delivers the Ebola gene and then the body ideally generates an immune response.

HUBBARD: I think that's exactly right. I have 100 percent confidence that there is no way that Ebola can be transmitted by receiving a trial vaccine.

SIMON: Mr. Hubbard - and a delicate question - do you get paid for your daring?

HUBBARD: Yes. I would say that's one of the aspects, but it's a very modest and you know, to be quite honest, the reason why I do it - I mean, I have a - you know, I understand how public health fits into the world and so I get a real sense of satisfaction out of participating, again like I said, in this very effective but low-cost to me way to contribute to public health.

SIMON: With respect for your equanimity and your daring now, do you ever let your mind play over the possibility that maybe because you've been a volunteer in this test, you're going to develop something in a few years they just haven't found yet?

HUBBARD: No. I really don't think so and in fact, I would say the opposite. I would say that when plague and pestilence sweep throughout the earth, I'll be the last man standing. I actually, you know, I don't discount the risks. There are risks, but I feel that they're such long-shots.

SIMON: I understand you live in the Washington, D.C. area but you're in Chattanooga for a wedding.

HUBBARD: That's correct.

SIMON: (Laughter) What kind of wedding conversation is this? I mean, you tell me - well, actually I'm a volunteer in an Ebola test. And then - watch the room empty.

HUBBARD: Yes. That's right so I'm here for my brother Paul's wedding and I would have to say that when I tell people about these vaccine trials - and they aren't familiar with my history of having done a few other vaccine trials - it's usually a sort of polite nod and then it's colored with a tinge of get me out of here.

SIMON: (Laughter). Well, you - I'm sure your brother's glad to have you there, nevertheless.

HUBBARD: Yes. No, I think it's really going to be a great celebration. We're really looking forward to it.

SIMON: Peter Hubbard, joining us from Chattanooga. The NIH says that they're going to have results of the Phase 1 test by the end of the year.

Thanks so much for being with us and much happiness to your brother and his bride.

HUBBARD: Great. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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