Zach Wurtz used to prowl the sidelines of Washington State University football games as mascot Butch the Cougar, but he has now taken to the field as a test subject in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wurtz is one of 45 youthful and healthy volunteers picked for a clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, being conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute and underwritten by the National Institutes of Health. The vaccine is still a year to 18 months away from deployment.
He wanted to “help out,” said Wurtz, adding: “I understand there is a lot of confusion and fear circling around, but I want folks to know there are lots of really smart people working their tails off to attack this problem from every possible angle. This thing (coronavirus) doesn’t stand a chance against that kind of collective brainpower.”
The testing was first disclosed to the Associated Press. The vaccine was developed by the firm Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.
The tests on Wurtz and others are designed to show any side effects worthy of concern. Larger trials are slated later this year to test its effect against COVID-19.
Wurtz will not become infected and cannot infect others. The shots he is taking do not contain the COVID-19 virus, or even an attenuated version of the coronavirus.
“Oversimplified,” Wurtz posted, “I’ll be given only the shell of the virus in hopes the body creates and stores an antibody that recognizes the shell and kills the virus should it ever be exposed to the real thing.” He is not under quarantine and “am no more (or less) at risk than anyone else.”
The curious fact is, however, that some have long sought to keep Wurtz six feet or more at bay in his activist life.
The former WSU student body president has worked as a “tracker” for progressive and Democratic causes, filming and recording remarks at hostile political gatherings. In 2014, he recorded a National Rifle Association lobbyist discoursing on the refugee from the Nazis family background of Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer. Hanauer was supporting an initiative to close the “gun show loophole.” The NRA guy talked about Nazis registering guns.
Wurtz was kept out of events for 2012 Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, but filmed McKenna on the street telling a young Democratic volunteer to “get a job.” The Republicans’ 2016 gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant was known to cordially greet Wurtz, but then avoid making gaffes.
Wurtz will be easy to recognize as a Kaiser Permanente test subject. Wurtz is never without his WSU baseball cap, and rarely without his silver and gold Cougar jacket.