UK NEWS: Why I volunteered for a COVID-19 injection test

LONDON – So why did I volunteer to inject the COVID-19 test drug? That’s what some of my friends wanted to know when I told them what I was doing.

“Who knows in time,” wrote a college roommate. It looks like a gamble. ”

It all started in July when the British government announced that it wanted more volunteers for major clinical trials of new vaccines. With just one month to go, my best friend here was killed by COVID-19 after spending weeks breathing.

Curious, I filled out an online form and found that I was not responsible for anything.

By the end of September, an email had informed me that I was among the more than 250,000 “pioneers in the war against COVID-19” who had joined the force. On October 1, I was invited to apply for a vaccine trial conducted by an American biotech company called Novavax Inc NVAX.O. It required at the time up to 10,000 volunteers in the United Kingdom for a night test to determine the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Appropriate travel expenses will be reimbursed. ”

Now, it was time to make a decision. I started researching the Novavax vaccine, which has received less attention than many others. On Monday, Pfizer Inc PFE.N announced that its COVID-19 vaccine trainer had proven to be more than 90% effective. In September, the late vaccine trial conducted by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc AZN.L was suspended following a report of a serious vascular disease in a volunteer, although the tests were allowed to continue.

To me, the Novavax vaccine seemed less harmful. Although a Maryland-based company has never received a vaccine, it uses the same technology to create its own COVID-19 candidate for its promising flu shot. I have received the flu vaccine every year for decades and I have never once had a negative reaction.

The published results of the first phase of the Novavax vaccine trial also showed no adverse effects among the more than 100 participants who were injected. The worst case scenario was that of a man with a high fever all day long.

I decided to download it. I wondered if life would return to normal, the world would need injections and volunteers to see if it worked. At the level of selfishness, I liked the idea of ​​being injected as soon as possible, because violence – and sometimes scary – is my daily routine. I am no longer putting myself in danger of having my wife call me her “prison guard”.

Another attraction: If I were to catch the virus, researchers could monitor me carefully. In the UK, where there has been an increase in new cases of COVID-19 to more than 20,000 per day, infected people actually live alone unless they need urgent care.

Of course, there was a 50-50 chance that I would be injected with a placebo – a salt solution – that would not protect me from anything. In experimental vaccines, placebos are used as a control to see if the real substance is effective in protecting the virus.

And then, after online and over-the-phone tests to find out if I had any health conditions that might prevent me from researching, I was offered an appointment for the first two injections.

I showed up the next morning at the clinical research center at King’s College Hospital south of London – a small, spacious building that is part of a full-fledged medical building. To my surprise, the receptionist asked me to remove the “Churchill Pro” bicycle mask – costing $ 33 and using British Military Filtration Technology to prevent “almost 100%” germs – and put it in a cheap, disposable place. I later learned this because my super-duper mask could be soiled.

Many other volunteers were already in the main room being organized. I met privately with a doctor who asked me if I had any questions.Can I be told if I have received a placebo and, if so, have I been given a real vaccine? Not what I wanted to hear.

May I take that? “The doctor suggested that this was possible.

After signing the consent form, he gave me a brief physical examination. When I returned to the main room, the nurse gave me a COVID-19 test, which was attached to a long swab in my throat and nose. Then he prepares to draw my blood. I warned her my veins were small and she often had a problem. He went on to fail twice before calling his best luck partner.

The injection itself was immeasurable. But when the nurse checked my blood pressure after that, it smelled bad. He asked me to wait a few seconds and then calm down. I thought about the meditation exercise I had always mocked but I just tried to reduce the anxiety caused by the epidemic – I took a deep breath and went outside. It worked.

So far, I have never had any side effects and waited for a second injection three weeks later. Curious about my experience, I spoke to James Galloway, a senior lecturer at King’s College who is a doctor in charge of my case.

You told me that no decisions have been made as to what to do with volunteers receiving placebo if Novavax is shown to be effective or another vaccine is approved.

He later added, “If we get another effective vaccine, we would like people to get that vaccine if they have a placebo.”

A Novavax spokesman later told me that the volunteers would discuss their options with the doctors looking at the test sites.

She doesn’t know how the UK Novavax trial is going so far because she can’t access the data. But overall, you are still hopeful that the effective anti-COVID-19 drugs will come.

As it happens, the 42-year-old doctor received COVID-19 personally last spring. He said he had a fever for 10 days and was hospitalized for a while after suffering a heart attack. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he said.

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