LBC Views: Rachael Venables was left feeling like an afterthought due to Covid jab trial

4 August 2021, 13:29 | Updated: 4 August 2021, 15:08

‘Brave’ volunteers who signed up to Covid vaccine trials have been left disadvantaged and furiously waiting, LBC Correspondent Rachael Venables writes
‘Brave’ volunteers who signed up to Covid vaccine trials have been left disadvantaged and furiously waiting, LBC Correspondent Rachael Venables writes. Picture: LBC
Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

Rachael Venables explains the impact of being part of an experimental vaccine trial which seemed positive at the start, but has left her with a sour taste in the mouth.

I’ll be honest, I knew I was taking a risk when I signed up for the vaccine trial.

A risk to my health; a risk that the vaccine I received would be no good; or that it could even hamper my chances of getting a different shot down the line.

But, ultimately, in the midst of 2020, it just didn’t matter.

So, last Autumn, when effective Covid-19 vaccines were still little more than a dream, I and 15,000 other UK volunteers signed up to test out an experimental jab by the US company Novavax, simply because we wanted to help beat the virus and end the pandemic.

But, months on, as other vaccines have sailed through the approval process, being jabbed into millions of arms around the world, Novavax has not.

What’s even more galling, is that when I had the opportunity in the Spring to drop out and get an NHS vaccine, I was encouraged to stay on – which I did – as the company were expecting MHRA approval “any day now.”

But, those days turned to weeks, then months, and now we know the company isn’t applying for approval until the Autumn.

As you can imagine, it’s led to fury and despair from many participants.

For those older or more vulnerable volunteers, they now face the anxiety of diminishing immunity, and unsure access to booster jabs.

Then there’s been the headache over vaccine passports.

My NHS app got updated over the weekend; I now finally have a domestic vaccine passport, but it’s for a vaccine that virtually no-where else in the world will accept!

Unsurprisingly, the Facebook page for participants is full of angry people, bemoaning the lack of clarity, travel restrictions, and just sharing a general sense of having been totally forgotten.

There are also plenty of pleas for the World Health Organisation to step up and provide some international guidance on how to treat trial participants.

Now personally, I can absolutely see why a country wouldn’t want the risks of someone travelling on the assurance of an un-approved vaccine, but we also have to remember that it’s only down to these trials, and the brave trialists, that the rest of the world have any vaccines at all.

Worryingly, some people are so fed up, they talk about ignoring the safety warnings and are getting alternative jabs anyway.

Most are turned away by vaccination centre staff, though others lie about their status and post updates to us all later about the severity of their side effects.

Given what’s at stake, I don’t regret my participation at all, and if the worst that happens to me is another summer without a foreign holiday, then I can live with the ‘sacrifice.’

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it had left a sour taste in the mouth.

We were told we wouldn’t be disadvantaged by taking part in the trial, clearly that hasn’t happened.

I keep thinking back to this time last year, when we were all desperate for some good covid-vaccine news, and the volunteers stepping up to try the jabs were presented by politicians and the media as heroes.

A long-cry from where we seem to be now - which feels just a bit like a forgotten afterthought.