For Jeff Taylor, a Palm Springs resident, the coronavirus pandemic is not his first. He's a survivor of the 1980s AIDS crisis, too.
"It's kind of the same thing, deja vu all over again," Taylor said. "I'm alive because of the advances in science in the HIV pandemic so I'm a true believer in better living from chemistry."
Taylor is considered immunocompromised. When he heard Moderna was opening a clinical research site for coronavirus vaccines in Banning earlier this year, he started screening for the study.
"That's how I stayed alive during the HIV pandemic: enrolling in trial after trial of experimental treatments," he said.
When he told organizers of the study that he has HIB, he said he was excluded from participating. "Which is counter to what we’ve been told, that people with HIV would be allowed into all the trials, and Moderna hadn’t gotten that message."
He said if HIV-positive people treat the virus properly, vaccines should work on them the same as they would anybody else.
Reaching out to his network of longtime AIDS advocates, Taylor pushed the FDA and National Institues of Health, as well as the pharmaceutical companies, to include HIV-positive people in their research.
Within weeks, Taylor said he started seeing changes to the clinical studies' policies.
"Moderna pushed this through very quickly; they're a brand new company in the field; they have no expertise with HIV and I think they just didn't know," he said. "They didn't want anything to slow down the study or make things look bad."
Taylor is now anxiously waiting for his shot to get vaccinated. He said he's angered to hear 50 percent of Riverside County health care workers have declined to take vaccines that are now available.
"I think it's kind of irresponsible, quite frankly," he said. "It's medical negligence and irresponsibility and I'm really shocked and saddened to see that that’s happening."
According to the FDA, both Pfizer and Moderna are now including small samples of HIV-positive people in their coronavirus vaccine research.
The drug makers didn't immediately return KESQ's requests for comment.