Coronavirus vaccine trial: I like knowing I am a tiny part of what could be our way out

Dr Ellie Cannon tells Sky News about the first stage of her volunteering to be part of a vaccine trial for the coronavirus.

For only the second time during this pandemic I got back on public transport – this time for an appointment at University College London Hospital.

After signing up for the Oxford Vaccine Trial, I was called back this week for my vaccination.

Last week, during my initial appointment I had blood taken for the COVID-19 antibodies, known as IgG. My test came back negative meaning it is unlikely I have had COVID so far.

I expected this result, as I have not felt ill in the last few months and thankfully my family have also been well.

Not having antibodies means I am allowed to join the trial as they can now test my blood repeatedly over the next year, to see if I develop antibodies from the vaccination.

I was called back to UCLH for further testing.

Again, we ran through the potential side effects and how I may feel in the next 48 hours. I also had to have further blood tests.

The process was thoroughly explained to me, as was the testing which I would have to do myself.

For the next eight weeks I have to take swabs on myself and post them.

These are the same as the self-swabs you would take if you thought you had COVID – from your nose and throat – and can be done at home on yourself.

I have to take a swab once a week for the trial scientists to know if I develop the infection, even if I don’t develop symptoms.

This is vital for them to see if the vaccination prevents infection.

The doctor at hospital wanted to make sure I was still happy to proceed, and I had to give consent again to be part of the vaccination trial. And then we were good to go.

This is what is known as a blind trial. I have not been told what vaccination I would get as they don’t want that to influence my behaviour or symptoms I may develop, or think I develop.

Half the trial volunteers will get the new ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccination. The other half will get the placebo – in this case a much-used meningitis vaccination.

I will only be told at the end of the trial which I was given. Every participant is treated exactly the same to ensure there is no bias between the groups.

Once I was happy to go ahead, two nurses came in to check and then give me the injection.

It felt like any other vaccination I have had in my upper arm. It was stinging for a minute or two but resolved very quickly.

I was monitored in the clinic room for 15 minutes to make sure my arm did not swell and to ensure I didn’t develop any reaction.

There was no reaction and I was free to go – face mask on of course – back onto the London Underground.

I was advised to take paracetamol for the next day to prevent any flu-like symptoms I develop. If I do develop any symptoms I have to be in touch with the trial team and, of course, isolate like anyone else.

At the time of writing this, it is a few hours since the injection and I feel fine with no noticeable side effects.

Next month I’ll be back to the hospital for blood tests – I am hoping we will be in a better stage of the pandemic then, with lower infection rates and more optimistic news.

I definitely feel more positive personally, knowing I am a tiny part of what could be our way out.

For more information on the Oxford Vaccine Trial, click here.

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