Oxford coronavirus vaccine volunteers speak of ‘pride’ in involvement with landmark trial

Volunteers in Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine trial have revealed their pride in taking part in the study after scientists found the jab may be up to 90 per cent effective.  

Sarah Hurst, 47, from South Oxfordshire, said it was a ‘great feeling’ to hear today that the vaccine could lead to protection in nine out of 10 people who receive the jab.

Jack Somers, a 35-year-old Londoner who also took part, said he was ‘very happy’ and felt like his vaccine team had ‘just won’. 

The pair, who both work as journalists, received two shots of either the experimental vaccine or a fake ‘placebo’ for comparison, but they still don’t know which one.

Mr Somers said he suffered side effects of a pain in his shoulder and slightly raised temperature, but Ms Hurst said she didn’t experience any.

Scientists at Oxford University today revealed their vaccine triggers an immune response in up to 90 per cent of volunteers when the first shot is administered as a half dose – heralding a way to get the world back to normal.

Of the more than 20,000 people who took part, half received the vaccine. There were only 30 Covid-19 infections in this group, compared to 101 in the placebo group, and none of them experienced severe illness. 

Politicians and experts congratulated the Oxford team on their breakthrough today, after their vaccine bolstered global armaments against the virus. 

A second volunteer in the trials previously told MailOnline they had suffered a fever, headaches, chills and fatigue 14 hours after getting their first shot.

Brazilian doctor João Pedro R. Feitosa, 28, died from Covid-19 during the trials but had not been given the real vaccine. He had been working in emergency wards and intensive care treating infected patients since March at two hospitals in Rio de Janeiro. 

Sarah Hurst, 47, a journalist from Goring-on-Thames took part in the trials of the vaccine

Sarah Hurst, 47, a journalist from Goring-on-Thames took part in the trials of the vaccine

Jack Somers, 35, a freelance journalist in London, said he suffered a heightened temperature and pain in his arm after receiving the Oxford vaccine

Jack Somers, 35, a freelance journalist in London, said he suffered a heightened temperature and pain in his arm after receiving the Oxford vaccine

Sarah Hurst, 47, from Goring-on-Thames and Jack Somers, 35, took part in the trials. Ms Hurst said it gave her a ‘tiny sense of pride’ to have been a volunteer in the trials

Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine was revealed to be up to 90 per cent effective today (stock image)

Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine was revealed to be up to 90 per cent effective today (stock image)

Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine was revealed to be up to 90 per cent effective today (stock image)

MOTHER OF TRIPLETS WHO US USED TO ‘WORKING ON NO SLEEP’ IS BEHIND OXFORD VACCINE

Mother of triplets Professor Sarah Gilbert is one of the five scientists behind the Oxford coronavirus vaccine.

Used to working on no sleep, the British vaccinologist has more than 25 years of experience in the field and has previously led the development and testing of a universal flu vaccine, which underwent clinical trials in 2011, and a jab against the coronavirus MERS after 2014. 

Professor Gilbert is not just busy at work, she’s got her hands full at home too, being the mother of triplets.

Born in April 1962, she attended Kettering High School, before attending the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, where she studied Biological Science and later University of Hull for her doctoral degree.

She later took roles in Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire before joining the lab of Irish vaccinologist Adrian Hill, where she carried out research into malaria. The pair are both involved in Oxford University spin-off biotech firm Vaccitech. 

The 58-year-old’s work this year on the Covid-19 vaccine has earned her a spot on The Times’ ‘Science Power List’ in May 2020.

She has had to juggle the intense work with her home life, including being a mother to triplets – all of who are now at university. 

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Ms Hurst, who works as a journalist, said: ‘It’s really the developers and everyone who’s done all the work, all the medical students who are constantly all day meeting the vaccine participants and testing them and being on the front line.

‘But it’s good, it’s a great feeling to help to make a vaccine.’

Explaining why she signed up, she said: ‘I live near where it’s being done and they were looking for people in the Thames Valley. As soon as I saw that I wanted to get involved to help research a vaccine.’

She underwent health checks and blood tests before receiving her two shots, and filled in a diary to notify researchers of her movements over the course of the study, as well as any symptoms.

‘You have to treat it as if you were in the placebo group anyway, you wouldn’t go out and randomly expose yourself because you don’t know,’ she said.

Despite suffering no side effects, this doesn’t mean she received the placebo. The trial used the meningitis vaccine as a control, which scientists argued would elicit a similar response to the Covid-19 jab. 

She said today’s results were ‘promising’ and noted ‘the fact it doesn’t need to be chilled at a very low temperature and is cheaper than the other vaccines will help in making it easier to distribute’.

‘You have to treat it as if you were in the placebo group anyway, you wouldn’t go out and randomly expose yourself because you don’t know,’ she said. 

‘People have only been vaccinated for a few months so I would still want to know: what are going to be the results after a year? Is it going to be effective after a year?

‘That’s something you really just have to wait for.’

Mr Somers, who also took part in the trials, said he found it hard to believe how quickly scientists had developed the vaccine. 

‘I can’t help but take my hat off to the scientists,’ said the freelance journalist from south-west London.

‘I remember six months ago sitting in a hospital watching a safety video, with Professor Matthew Snape at Oxford University talking in quite careful, deliberate, cautious terms about how this vaccine might work or it might not work.

‘Now it seems amazing that we’re here six months later and that jab is very effective at stopping coronavirus.

‘It’s not where I thought we’d be six months ago, it’s not even where I thought we’d be a month ago, but it’s testament to the work of so many people, so many extraordinary people.’ 

Oxford professor Sarah Gilbert

Oxford professor Sarah Gilbert

Professor Andrew Pollard

Professor Andrew Pollard

Oxford professors Sarah Gilbert and Andrew Pollard have both worked to create the vaccine that could beat the virus and bring the world back to normal

Volunteers receive no information about how the trial is going so have been following the progress in the media along with everybody else.

And Mr Sommers said that, while he had been very pleased to read about positive results from other vaccines such as that developed by Pfizer, there was a special feeling about this one.

‘It does feel a bit like I was supporting a team and it was good to watch other teams win and score, but now my team has won and I’m very happy about that,’ he said.

The UK has secured 100million doses of Oxford’s vaccine, with 4million set to be delivered before the end of this year. But they will need to be approved by regulators before they can be distributed.

A volunteer. who received his first shot in early May, previously told MailOnline they suffered a debilitating headache, fever, chills and fatigue after receiving the vaccine.

Dr João Pedro R. Feitosa (pictured), a 28-year-old from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, was confirmed to be the volunteer who died in the Brazilian arm of AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford's coronavirus vaccine trial

Dr João Pedro R. Feitosa (pictured), a 28-year-old from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, was confirmed to be the volunteer who died in the Brazilian arm of AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford's coronavirus vaccine trial

Dr João Pedro R. Feitosa (pictured), a 28-year-old from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, was confirmed to be the volunteer who died in the Brazilian arm of AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford’s coronavirus vaccine trial

‘I woke up about 2am and I was freezing, but had a temperature above 39C,’ the man, who asked not to be named, said.

‘I felt incredibly weak and couldn’t really get up and move so my partner had to get me a paracetamol.

‘The temperature continued for about a day, and I just felt really weak and lethargic and couldn’t really do anything.’

Throughout the first two days after the jab he also had a splitting headache that made it hard to concentrate, along with persistent chills.

He said the most severe symptoms had disappeared when he woke up on the third day after taking the vaccine, but side effects continued.

‘I still felt weak for a couple of days afterwards and not completely myself – although the symptoms were not as severe as the first day, which was awful,’ he said.

‘I’ve been fine ever since [the shot] and don’t think I have had coronavirus since then, despite being out and about, which is good news,’ he said.

The man said he signed up on the Oxford University website after seeing an ad for the trial because he wanted to protect himself.

‘It was the height of the pandemic and it felt like everyone was getting it, and that if you got it, you would get seriously ill,’ he said.

‘I also felt with everyone else participating in the national effort (like the NHS, shop workers) that I wanted to do something to contribute.’

HOW DO THE OXFORD, MODERNA AND PFIZER/BIONTECH VACCINES COMPARE? 

Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have both released interim results of the final stage clinical trials of their vaccines, with both suggesting they are extremely effective. 

Oxford University has published the findings from its second phase, which show the jab provokes an immune response and is safe to use – it is not yet clear how well it protects against coronavirus in the real world.

Here’s how they compare: 

MODERNA (US)

PFIZER (US) & BIONTECH (DE)

OXFORD UNIVERSITY (UK)

How it works: 

mRNA vaccine – Genetic material from coronavirus is injected to trick immune system into making ‘spike’ proteins and learning how to attack them.

mRNA vaccine – both Moderna’s and Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines work in the same way.

Recombinant viral vector vaccine – a harmless cold virus taken from chimpanzees was edited to produce the ‘spike’ proteins and look like the coronavirus.

How well does it work?

94.5% effective (90 positive in placebo group, 5 positive in vaccine group) .

95% effective (160 positive in placebo group, 8 positive in vaccine group).

62% – 90% effective, depending on dosing.

How much does it cost?

Moderna confirmed it will charge countries placing smaller orders, such as the UK’s five million doses, between £24 and £28 per dose. US has secured 100million doses for $1.525billion (£1.16bn), suggesting it will cost $15.25 (£11.57) per dose.

The US will pay $1.95bn (£1.48bn) for the first 100m doses, a cost of $19.50 (£14.80) per dose.

Expected to cost £2.23 per dose. The UK’s full 100m dose supply could amount to just £223million.

Can we get hold of it?

UK has ordered five million doses which will become available from March 2021. Moderna will produce 20m doses this year, expected to stay in the US. 

UK has already ordered 40million doses, of which 10million could be available in 2020. First vaccinations expected in December.

UK has already ordered 100million doses and is expected to be first in line to get it once approved.

What side effects does it cause? 

Moderna said the vaccine is ‘generally safe and well tolerated’. Most side effects were mild or moderate but included pain, fatigue and headache, which were ‘generally’ short-lived. 

Pfizer and BioNTech did not produce a breakdown of side effects but said the Data Monitoring Committee ‘has not reported any serious safety concerns’.

Oxford said there have been no serious safety concerns. Mild side effects have been relatively common in small trials, with many participants reporting that their arm hurt after the jab and they later suffered a headache, exhaustion or muscle pain. More data is being collected.

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