"It's been a long year," Billy Bowers said from his front porch in Ennis. "Whew, it was horrible!"
His year got better this week when he was 'unblinded' in the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine trial in which he was enrolled.
"When you get unblinded, whew! What a relief," Bowers said. "I got the vaccine."
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Bowers said he had a hunch he wasn't in the placebo group, after being exposed to COVID-19 from some family who got sick.
He has a message for anyone who might be apprehensive about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
"I was already their guinea pig," Bowers said. "I wanted to do something important and maybe if one person sees me and is like, hey, that fat boy didn't die, so why not me. You know what I mean?"
Now fully vaccinated, Bowers is looking forward to the hugs he's missed from his children, 17 grandchildren, and his great-granddaughter.
"It's just a joy for me to know that I'm safe," Bowers said. "I feel like the light at the end of the tunnel just got brighter for me."
Bowers said he will keep wearing his face mask, and encourages others to do the same.
When it's safe and his family is vaccinated, Bowers is planning a 'COVID Day' to celebrate all the birthdays, graduations, and holidays they missed during the pandemic.