What is it like participating in one of the COVID-19 vaccine trials running right now? Many people want to know as the world rushes to educate themselves in what the expedited vaccine development process looks like. Richard Fisher wrote a piece for BBC about his participation in Oxford University’s trial. 

The trial has ten thousand participants and is putting Oxford’s vaccine against a common meningitis vaccine as the control. Why not use a placebo? Well, researchers wanted to ensure both groups receive common vaccination side effects. 

Richard will fill out a weekly questionnaire, take tonsil and nasal swabs, and report for periodic blood tests for the next year. He writes: 

“It’s this necessary but long-term process that some people – many of them politicians – fail to understand about the coronavirus vaccine trials. You can’t throw money at the problem and hope results happen faster. While the Oxford vaccine trial has already shown promising safety results, and the tantalising possibility of a protective immune response, it was only in 1,000 people. To roll out a vaccine to millions (or the whole world), you need a level of confidence that can only come with patience and more data.

Public health officials will remember well the times that vaccine rollouts went wrong. In 1976, fears of a swine flu outbreak led the US government to accelerate vaccine development and inoculate tens of millions of Americans. The feared pandemic never arrived, but by some estimates, around 30 people died due to adverse vaccine reactions. Such mistakes may well have dented trust in public health advice and fuelled anti-vax fears too, which is the last thing you need in a pandemic.”

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