Mother of two kids, Lydia Guthrie, is among the first volunteers to take part in a UK coronavirus vaccine trial, something she believes is desperately needed to help the country out of this deadly crisis. “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,” Lydia Guthrie said.
Scientists in Oxford carried out the first human testing in Europe last week since many experts around the world believe finding a successful vaccine is the best way to end the pandemic and prevent the virus from spreading after lockdown rules are nullified.
In normal circumstances, developing vaccines takes years, if not decades, but considering the danger that lies with the rapid spreading of the coronavirus, researchers do not want to go into animal testing and are heading straight to human testing.
Jenner Institute scientists at the University of Oxford have begun administering the trial injections which will be tested on more than 800 people that volunteered.
According to HuffPost UK, three persons who’re among the volunteers spoke on why they mustered the courage to avail themselves of the trial game.
First was Lydia Guthrie, 47, who lives in Oxford. She feels that it’s something that is necessary to help control the pandemic that is currently damaging lives and economy globally.
“We desperately need a vaccine to help us survive and come out of this major health crisis. Yes, there is a small risk, but if as a result of the trial, they find a vaccine for coronavirus, the pay off for everyone might be enormous,” she told HuffPost UK.
Lydia is a former probation officer who ran her own training enterprise for a decade. She was also about qualifying as a family therapist before she saw the advert seeking for volunteers and decided to take a path.
She is most courageous to do so considering that her husband Mark took part in a trial run by the same institute many years ago, and had a positive experience.
“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 said.
“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. 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,” she said.
Lydia qualified for the Oxford Covid-19 trial as researchers were only accepting healthy volunteers with no symptoms of the virus in their systems.
The trial process will involve half the participants being injected with the coronavirus vaccine, while the other half will be injected a meningitis vaccine. Volunteers will not be told which one they have received.
Although was motivated by her husband who ones volunteered and came out successful, she admitted to being a bit nervous as “no one likes injections”. Reacting to speculation she was doing it for the money, she 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.”
After dumping several advises telling her she was taking a wrong step she said, “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.”
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, while Imperial College in London is also hoping to have a vaccine ready for use by the end of the year.
Kevin Lister, 57, a Maths lecturer who lives in Cirencester, is another volunteer for the Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial as he felt it was “the least I can do when others are putting their life on the line.”
Kevin compared people putting themselves forward for vaccine trials to being “like World War I when people had to volunteer first” and said, “People have to be prepared to put their lives on the line for the greater good.”
“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.”
Although Kevin will not be going in for the trial as he has been told he is 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.
“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.”
Another volunteer who took us by surprise was 47-year-old Mandy Culley who said she was doing it to give back to the community.
The mum-of-four and grandmother-of-three revealed that she hasn’t had an opportunity to give something back and said “that is what humanity should be about.
Mandy who lives in Peterborough said that when she was at school, she was bullied and for the last couple of years of her school life, she retaliated and “was made an example of and expelled at 16.”
Mandy, who is now a manager at a decorating centre, said: “I began working in a factory with my dad and always felt I could do more in my life than this.”
Mandy revealed that three of her children were born premature and spent the early part of their life in the special care baby unit, while another had to stay in the hospital for some time after suffering an umbilical infection.
Her eldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of five, and a speech and language disorder, and is on the autism spectrum.
“From going through all this, I have seen what others do to help people and what a difference it makes,” she said.
“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.”
Mandy is waiting to hear feedback if she is accepted on the trial and meets their criteria. She says that although she knows there are minimal risks associated with the trial as it is with any other trial.
“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 the safety aspects of the vaccine and its ability to generate good immune responses against the virus.
The vaccine is made from the ChAdOx1 virus which is a weakened version of a common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees but has been genetically transformed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.
Most vaccines made from the ChAdOx1 virus have proven to be safe and well-tolerated, although they can cause temporary side effects, such as temperature, headache or a sore arm.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the team, said she is optimistic about the chances of success with this trial.
She said: “Personally, I’m very optimistic it’s going to work. Formally, we are testing it in an efficacy setting.
“There’s absolutely no suggestion we’re going to start using this vaccine in a wider population before we’ve demonstrated that it actually works and stops getting people infected with the coronavirus.”