As coronavirus continue to destabilize societies across the world; vaccines produced by medical experts needs volunteers for vaccine test. In Europe, the first human trial of coronavirus vaccine began last week in Oxford.
Another institution hoping to have a vaccine ready for use by the end of the year is Imperial College in London.
The researchers say a vaccine may be available for frontline workers and the most vulnerable by late winter, with clinical trials starting in June.
There is no doubt that finding a vaccine is the best way to end the pandemic. A vaccine would provide some protection by training people’s immune system to fight the virus so they won’t get sick.
Though, developing vaccines usually takes years, if not decades, but as speed is a priority, researchers are skipping animal testing straight to human testing.
The trial will involve half the participants being injected with the coronavirus vaccine, while the other half will be given a meningitis vaccine. Volunteers will not be told which one they have received.
The trial will involve blood tests and checks and calling a telephone line to report any symptoms.
Up to 1,102 trial participants will be recruited across multiple study sites in Oxford, Southampton, London and Bristol.
The Oxford team hopes to have at least a million doses of its vaccine candidate ready in September.
Scientists at the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford have begun administering the trial injections which will be given to more than 800 volunteers.
But what kind of person does it take to volunteer for an experimental vaccine trial?
Lydia Guthrie, one of the volunteers, a mother-of-two has these to say:
“It’s not an altruistic act as if they find a vaccine to beat coronavirus, I will benefit too. We’re all in this together.”
“We desperately need a vaccine to help us survive and come out of this major health crisis.” she told HuffPost UK.
“Yes, there is a small risk, but if as a result of the trial, they find a vaccine for coronavirus, and the payoff for everyone might be enormous.”
“My husband took part in a trial for an HIV vaccine as researchers were recruiting healthy volunteers to see if they could find a vaccine.” she explained.
“It wasn’t successful in finding a vaccine, but he did feel that the team really took care of the participants. It is the same institute that is running this trial so I have a lot of trust and faith in them.”
“Very often, drugs are developed to make money for big pharmaceutical companies.” she said. “Things like HIV and malaria which are prolific around the world and kill so many people don’t get the same attention or money for trials as they are not seen as ‘glamorous’ as some trial drugs.
“Both I and my husband felt the HIV trial and now this Covid-19 trial was important as they are focusing on where there is a real health need.”
“I am doing something constructive with all the other volunteers so we can survive and cope with this crisis.
“Doing nothing is risky so this is an act of hope and a small act of resistance against this virus.
“My children are really supportive and proud of what I am doing and know that human volunteers are needed for the vaccine trials.
“As a family, we have a set of values about social justice and counting your blessings which are really important to us and this is a time we can put them into action.”
Lydia is a former probation officer and ran her own training company for a decade, and is also about to qualify as a family therapist. She decided to take part in the trial after spotting an advert asking for volunteers.
She feels she’s in safe hands as her husband Mark took part in a trial run by the same institute several years ago, and had a positive experience.
She told how some people have speculated she “must be doing it for the money”, but laughingly revealed that trial volunteers will receive around £200 to cover expenses and said: “It is certainly not about the money – there are easier ways to earn £200.”
Kevin Lister, 57, a Maths lecturer who lives in Cirencester, applied to take part in the Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial as he felt it was “the least I can do when others are putting their life on the line.”
The father-of-two told HuffPost UK: “It seems to me like there is no immunity to this virus. It is completely new and it has hit society like a tidal wave and we don’t know how this thing is going to play out.
“There is no guarantee we won’t end up in the same position when the lockdown is lifted and social distancing measures are eased and that’s why we need a vaccine.”
“People have to be prepared to put their lives on the line for the greater good.”
He said: “My attitude was that I am 57, so if someone is going to go into the firing line, it is better for it to be someone who has already had a good proportion of their life.
“Normally, vaccine trials take years, but we don’t have time when it comes to this virus and we are in completely uncharted territory.”
“Our society is very fragile at the moment and I can’t see a good outcome unless a vaccine is successfully developed quickly to fight this virus.”
Kevin has been told he is just outside the age group and geographical area for the Oxford trial but he is still willing to take part if they extend their criteria or if there are other vaccine trials.
47-year-old Mandy Culley has applied to take part in a coronavirus vaccine trial. The mum-of-four and grandmother-of-three told HuffPost UK that she hasn’t had an opportunity to give something back and said “that is what humanity should be about.
“I have lived quite a narrow life and even though I wanted to give something back, I had never had that opportunity.
“To me, helping others and making people happy, even in a minor way, is very important and is what humanity should be about.
“We take things like the flu vaccine for granted but back in the day, that would have needed human trials.
“Putting myself forward for the coronavirus vaccine trial is my way of putting something back into the country and the world.”
“I know there is a slight chance of something going wrong as there is with all trials.
“There are risks with everything. But the potential positives of this trial far outweigh the negatives.”
The Oxford vaccine trial aims to provide valuable information on safety aspects of the vaccine and its ability to generate good immune responses against the virus.
The main focus of the study is to find out if this vaccine is going to work against Covid-19, if it won’t cause unacceptable side effects and if it induces good immune responses.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the team, said she is optimistic about the chances of success.
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