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‘This is for the greater good’: LBC speaks to woman taking part in covid-19 vaccine trial

16 July 2020, 08:40 | Updated: 17 July 2020, 13:05

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

Justine is young, healthy and has never had coronavirus, which makes her the perfect candidate for Imperial's multi-million pound study.

She jokes that her health will never again be so closely monitored, and she clenches her fist for one final blood test before a nurse gives her a tiny dose of the new covid vaccine in their West London facility.

A quick wince, and she's done: "Now I'm vaccinated!,” she says.

“It didn’t hurt at all. Underwhelming. I don’t feel woozy, I’ve not really felt anything, I feel great.

“I have to come back once a week, every week for a couple of months. They’re going to be monitoring me, taking my bloods and seeing how I’m doing.

“I’ll also get a booster vaccine as part of this trial as well.”

Dr Katrina Pollock said she was "cautiously optimistic"
Dr Katrina Pollock said she was "cautiously optimistic". Picture: Thomas Angus, Imperial College London

“This is definitely for the greater good, we are in a global crisis right now and we need big, brave solutions. We need more people to take part in research.”

Justine is one of the hundreds of volunteers who have put themselves forward to receive a dose of this vaccine.

In the first part, 15 participants had injections, with no concerns, and now the study is now widening to 320 participants in sites around the country.

Researchers at Imperial are working on a possible vaccine.
Researchers at Imperial are working on a possible vaccine. Picture: Thomas Angus, Imperial College London

The volunteers are randomly put forward to receive one of three strength doses, to evaluate three things:

1. Is the vaccine 'well tolerated?'

2. Is it safe?

3. What is the immune response of the volunteers, do they successfully produce antibodies that could fight of the infection?

Dr Katrina Pollock is a Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Vaccinology, she said what makes the vaccine unique is the fact that it's been synthetically created.

It works by getting your own body to produce the virus's distinctive ‘spike’ proteins, allowing the immune system to recognise the virus’s distinctive surface.

This has the benefit of meaning only a very tiny dose is needed for each person

The team say one litre of the Imperial COVID-19 vaccine could be used to vaccinate two million people.

While, with a conventional vaccine, you might need ten thousand litres for that many vaccinations.

Dr Pollock says she's "cautiously optimistic but we've got a long way to go to evaluate it."

“There’s a lot more work to do but I think the general consensus is that a safe and effective vaccine will change the situation that we are in globally and that it is desperately needed.”

Previously, the man at the head of the study, Professor Robin Shattock said he was hopeful the vaccine could be rolled out in the early part of next year.

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