More than 30,000 Americans are now taking part in COVID-19 vaccine trials, and many are earning a few hundred dollars for their efforts.
One offer to participate is raising a lot of questions, with some people wondering if it is legitimate.
Nancy Brashear opened her mail at her Campbell County, Kentucky, home to find an offer to earn money if she joined a COVID-19 vaccine test.
"I got a letter from Acurian Health looking for volunteers for a COVID vaccine study, promising up to $1,200 if you participate or volunteer," she said.
It looked promising, but Brashear said she started to wonder how they knew she would be a good candidate for a vaccine trial. Did someone with a hospital, doctor's office or pharmacy sell her health information?
"How do they get my information?" Brashear said. "That really bothers me."
We called and emailedAcurian Healthto find out how they got her name, but did not hear back.
Company is a data firm, not a testing center
Acurian is a legitimate company, according to the Better Business Bureau, and states it is a data firm that connects people with medical trials.
It does not do the actual testing.
"Where did they get this information?" Brashear asked. "HIPPA laws make your history private."
A report in Gizmodo, entitled "How a Company You've Never Heard of Sends you Letters about your Medical Condition," quotes Acurian saying it purchases "public information" and "lifestyle data" to find candidates.
It does not access your doctor's medical file.
TheProtect Patients Blog has an in-depth articleof how Acurian learns if you are a good candidate for a medical trial.
But Brashear found that if you decide to apply, you will then have to give much more medical information to see if you actually qualify. There is no guarantee you will be accepted for a trial, and no guarantee you will earn anything close to $1,200.
"If you go on the website, you have to go through steps to do that, so they are looking for information," she said.
In the end, she said thanks, but no thanks, wondering if she would be sharing too much medical and personal information with a company she knew little about.
If you want to sign up for a COVID-19 trial,the NIH, National Institutes of Health, is a government site that lists all the authorized vaccine trials going on.
Many of them will pay money, typically a few hundred dollars. However, they may not cover treatment for any side effects.
So be sure to read all the fine print, so you don't waste your money.