What’s it like being in a Phase 3 coronavirus vaccine trial?

Credit: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Credit: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

I’m at St George’s for an initial screening as a volunteer in the Oxford University trial to test the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine. In the coming weeks, I will learn what it is like to be a participant in one of the world’s most promising efforts to tackle to the coronavirus pandemic. Of all the vaccine trials ongoing around the world, the Oxford effort is ahead of most of the pack.

A few weeks later, on 20 July, the researchers would announce extremely promising initial results, based on the first 1,077 people, suggesting that the vaccine is both safe and triggers an immune response… The next step involves expanding the trial at a higher dose to thousands more people, volunteering at sites across the UK, as well as Brazil and South Africa. This phase of the clinical trials, to test efficacy on a much bigger scale, is what I have signed up for.

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The sad truth is that a volunteer like me in the UK is less likely to tell the scientists if their vaccine shows efficacy, because for now at least, I am less likely to catch the virus than somebody where the pandemic is spreading through the community. For the greater good, some of the 10,000 volunteers in my stage of the trial will need to encounter this killer.

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