I was scrolling through Instagram in early August 2020 when I saw an advertisement that caught my attention. Usually, I swipe past these without a second glance, but this was for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine trial. It was recruiting participants for the highly publicized phase 3 trial of a new vaccine, BNT162b2, that had shown promising results earlier in the year. As a nurse and researcher who has encountered social media recruitment in my own work—and has closely followed the COVID-19 vaccine trials—I was curious to see how Pfizer planned to convince 30 000 people in the US to volunteer. I clicked on the advertisement.
The recruitment website (https://www.covidvaccinestudy.com/) was nicely designed with bright photos and thoughtful messaging about the trial. I intended to look at the recruitment approach, but found myself instead thinking about how important it is for people to participate. In the US, as of September 2020 COVID-19 had been diagnosed in nearly 7 million people and had killed more than 200 000.1 A vaccine could save lives and stop the spread of the virus. Volunteering for the trial felt like an honorable thing to do—and the 50% chance to be randomized to the vaccine early seemed equally compelling to me as a practicing nurse. Before I left the website, I entered my contact information to be considered for participation.