You found out this week that you received two doses of the Oxford vaccine as part of the trial, how did that happen?
I was part of a group of people invited this week to consider having a Covid vaccine at one of the hubs already running. Because I had been part of the trial, I had to find out whether I received the Oxford vaccine or the ‘control’ which was a Meningitis vaccine.
When did you have your doses?
I was one of the first 160 people ever to have it, so really early in the trial. I had the first dose in April and the second dose in June.
Why did you choose to be part of the Oxford Vaccine trial?
Even early in the pandemic, it seemed pretty obvious that a vaccination programme was going to be the longer term solution to Covid-19 and that it would only be a success if people took part in the trial. Whilst my full time role is in the patient care directorate and I do not have daily contact with patients, it was also important to me as a registered nurse and paramedic to do something meaningful for patients as well.
Why did you choose to support the Oxford vaccine study?
In part because it was close, I live only a few miles from Oxford; but also because I have confidence in their long history of developing vaccines. My wife was a volunteer participant for their Ebola vaccine trial and I was impressed with the level of information and support given to her.
But Ebola has been round for a long time and this is a new virus, how did you know it would be safe?
Coronaviruses have been round for some time and the Oxford group had done a lot of research and development of a vaccine for SARS previously (also a coronavirus) and the technology they used to build the Covid vaccine was already well developed. SARS was a pandemic ‘near miss’ that many who have been around in health for a while may well remember. Although that threat subsided, the research into a vaccine carried on in ‘slow time’ to become a well developed basis for future coronavirus vaccines, which allowed them to work so quickly.
Were you worried about the side effects?
No, not really. Like the flu vaccine, I was aware that it was not a live agent and could not give me the disease. The vaccine is essentially enough of the code bolted onto the existing vaccine technology for the body to recognise it as a threat and develop an immune response , so if it sees the real thing in future, it already has the response lined up to tackle it. I knew I might expect some side effects similar to the flu vaccine (which are a reassuring sign things are working as we expect!).
So, what was it like?
On the day of each of the doses, the prepared syringe was in a tray with my study participant number on. It was a double blind study, so my details and the study number were kept separate from the researchers and even the nurse giving the injection had no idea which I was receiving!
It was very much like a flu vaccine; in, out, job done. After a 15 minute wait, I was on my way again. Unlike the SCAS flu campaign, there was no sticker, no pen and no entry into a prize draw though! I had a mild temperature that first evening, easily managed with a dose of paracetamol and that’s it. Nothing else, not a sausage. For what felt like an important step forward in managing the pandemic, it was altogether pretty boring, but boring can be good!
Does it feel good to be protected against the virus?
Yes, but I know its not a free pass to behave differently yet! Like the flu vaccine, the wider population is only protected when we have a sufficiently high uptake across the nation. Whilst the evidence is clear, no-one who has had the Oxford vaccine became seriously unwell with Covid, there is a bit more research to be done to know if it prevents us passing on the virus to others like the Flu vaccine does. At the moment I think of it like driving a car; Social distancing, regular and rigorous hand washing, appropriate PPE are like brakes, seat belts and airbags and we shouldn’t do without them until the virus is under control (or to use my analogy, when we finally finish this crazy pandemic journey and step out of the car!).
Any final words?
Anyone who has met me as a vaccinator for this years flu vaccine campaign, will know I am a massive fan of vaccines (as well as having a reputation for people hardly noticing I have given the jab!). Ever since 1796, when Jenner saw that milkmaids who contracted cowpox were protected from smallpox, vaccines have been one of health sciences greatest achievements and have done more to save lives than almost any other intervention we have available to us. They are also incredibly safe, with millions of vaccines given every year for lots of different diseases, there are very few serious reactions and the vaccinators are trained to manage those in the unlikely event they occur. Like the flu vaccine each year, people may be a little bit nervous or who have doubts; that’s fine, but I would urge them to talk to whoever is offering the vaccine and get the information to make a truly informed choice. I can only talk about my experience of having the Oxford vaccine, but as all vaccines offered have been rigorously assessed by the MHRA, I would be confident in any of the vaccines offered.