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Coronavirus vaccine trial volunteer reveals what it’s like

Published Jul 27th, 2020 11:52AM EDT
coronavirus vaccine
Image: FrankHoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

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  • Coronavirus vaccine trials are happening all over the globe, but the race to produce the first viable vaccine means lots of volunteers. 
  • A participant in the Oxford vaccine trials has offered a window into what it’s like to be on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19
  • The odds of a vaccine being available before the end of 2020 are still very slim.

The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate headlines worldwide, and it’s becoming increasingly clear — especially in countries like the United States where a lot of people seem to think wearing a mask is a joke — that a vaccine will be our best bet to return to “normal” daily life. There are a number of vaccine trials that are currently happening around the globe, and one of the more promising ones, called the Oxford Vaccine Trial, is happening right now in the UK.

Now, a participant in those trials is offering an inside look at what it’s like to be on the front lines of the race to develop the life-saving treatment. In an interview with Slashdot, trial participant Jennifer Riggins speaks at length about her experiences as a test subject.

The vaccine trials are blind, meaning that the volunteers don’t actually know whether or not they’ve received the trial vaccine or a placebo. “Now that the results of Phase I have been released and this vaccine is the front runner so far, it is even more exciting, even while there’s only a 50 percent chance I got the Covid vaccine,” Riggins explains. “I won’t find out which I had supposedly until 12 months from receiving the first dose. It could change as the research and everything about the trial is evolving more rapidly but I’ve no expectations before that.”

Still, Riggins has to follow strict rules that stretch for up to a year after the vaccine has been administered. She is forbidden from donating blood and is advised to avoid pregnancy at all costs. She’s also barred from taking any COVID tests that aren’t administered by the researchers conducting the trial.

She has to participate in weekly tests and report any side effects she experienced. She notes that she did have some “minor side effects” after the initial dose administration, but they have since subsided.

She also has some words of warning for anyone who is taking a lazy approach to the pandemic in the hopes that a vaccine will miraculously appear before the end of 2020.

“I worry people — especially Americans — are hinging their lives on the promise of a vaccine in the Fall,” she says. “This is dangerous and essentially impossible. Now is not the time to go back to normal. It’s the time to stay distant and wear a mask. It sucks how few are wearing masks in central London even while now it’s finally enforced. Don’t be selfish.”