A “Last Chance” to Give Back: 80-year-old Jean Rook Volunteers for Vaccine Trial

Portrait of Jean Rook, COVID-19 Vaccine trial participant.

Posted December 31, 2020

As researchers across the world race to develop and distribute vaccines to stop the spread of COVID-19, Vermonters and New Yorkers have offered their arms to science, volunteering to participate in the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial at The Larner College of Medicine Vaccine Testing Center at The University of Vermont and UVM Medical Center.

These volunteers come from diverse backgrounds and offer varying reasons for becoming involved. A unifying theme, though, is a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Here is Jean’s story.

Jean Rook, 80, Burlington, VT 

Eighty-year-old Jean Rook had one thought when she heard that clinical trial testing for the COVID-19 vaccine would be happening locally: “Here in Vermont? Isn’t that wonderful!”

Rook jumped at the chance to participate. Having been a teacher, skier and sailor, embracing new experiences comes naturally. She and husband Charles, who moved to Vermont 19 years ago, have travelled to all seven continents and enjoyed many outdoor adventures, including kayaking and hiking. As a result, she’s even had a few significant interactions with the health care system prior to this: Two hip replacements and one bad ankle break (in Italy).

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned Rook’s life inward: To home projects, classical music, yoga and gazing at the view of Lake Champlain. She feels lucky compared to young families who are coping with the daily challenges of remote work and young children at home. “I have a lot of sorrow for the younger generations struggling with this,” she says.

Rook is happy to be doing her part. “I want to pay it forward. I’ve had a long, good life and this may be my last chance to give to my community in a meaningful way.”

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