Coronavirus: I volunteered for the vaccine trial – here’s what happened

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The race is on to try to find a cure for the deadly coronavirus that has swept the globe.

    Human trials are under way of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 being developed by scientists at the University of Oxford.

    If it proves effective it could be the silver bullet that brings the pandemic to an end.

    Dr Ellie Cannon is a family GP and well-known broadcaster and columnist. She has volunteered to take part in the trial. Here, she explains why and what is involved.

    This week, for the first time ever, I joined a medical trial.

    Spurred on by my desire to do something practical to help the national effort in this terrible situation we all find ourselves in (although I am also working as a GP) I have signed up to be on the Oxford Vaccine trial.

    The vaccination is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and the the study will recruit 10,000 people to test the vaccination over a year.

    I signed up to be a part of the study at University College London Hospital but there are many centres around the UK signing people up.

    After filling out a few brief background health checks online I was informed I was eligible and within 48 hours had a phone call to book my appointment, two days later.

    
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    I already knew the most nerve-wracking part would be going on the Tube, as I’ve not had to do that since lockdown. But it all went well – although I was disappointed to see I was one of the few people with my face covered!

    I had to be at my appointment on the dot – they don’t want people hanging around in the hospital unnecessarily, to maintain social distancing. My temperature was checked as I walked in and I was given hand sanitiser before being directed to the outpatient clinic for the trial. So far so good.

    The appointment was about an hour with both a doctor and a nurse, who were incredibly patient and friendly from behind their masks – it is the most social contact I’ve had in weeks!

    The process started with consenting to be involved. I was talked very carefully through how the study would work, the tests I would have and the possible side effects, as well as what to do if I got COVID during the trial or felt unwell from the vaccination.

    
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    I was asked about data and ongoing use of my blood and DNA, and felt the process was explained very well. We then had a thorough discussion of all aspects of my medical history, and this is also lengthy as it is so important.

    There were physical checks too: a urine test to ensure I’m not pregnant, height and weight, blood pressure and pulse, and more temperature checks – everything was done with lots of sanitiser around and hand washing.

    The last step of the appointment was then to have blood taken. This is for an antibody test to see if I have had COVID at any time, and have antibodies known as IgG. As far as I’m aware I have never had symptoms or been ill in the past few months but if I have antibodies already I can’t carry on in the trial. They need people who have no antibodies to start with, so they can test your body’s response.

    I will get my results in a few days, and if I don’t have antibodies, then next week I will be back to UCLH for the vaccination.

    I will either be given the new vaccination or the placebo which is in fact a well-used meningitis vaccine. I will not be told as it is what is called a “blind” trial. Either way, it feels good to be a part of what could be one way out of this pandemic.

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    To join the Oxford Vaccine Trial visit https://www.covid19vaccinetrial.co.uk/

    This week until Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World – a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.

    We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology. And you can take part too.

    If you’d like to be in our virtual audience – from your own home – and put questions to the experts, email afterthepandemic@sky.uk

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