Vaccine trials didn't monitor one variable: volunteers' behavior. 'Masks and social distancing were left up to us,' a participant said. | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Vaccine trials didn't monitor one variable: volunteers' behavior. 'Masks and social distancing were left up to us,' a participant said.

Jenny Hamilton, a 57-year-old former police officer, joined Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine trial in August. After getting each of the two shots, she recorded what she felt in an app: low-grade fevers, fatigue, and muscle aches. When Hamilton reported "severe" tiredness, a study coordinator quickly texted her to see how she was doing.

But the coordinators didn't track Hamilton's social interactions after she got injected — nor those of any other volunteer. That's true in other vaccine trials as well: Moderna did not give volunteers any specific instructions about mask wearing or social distancing. And neither trial assessed volunteers' individual exposure levels (based on, say, their family members' activity). That means there could be unintended variations between the groups that got a placebo and those that got the real vaccine.

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