Clinical Trial Part Three

Off for my third appointment yesterday morning, as part of the Covid-19 clinical trial that I’m involved with. Woke up to snow first thing, and the clinic is the other side of the Pennines…

The first appointment, at the end of November, was for the first injection and involved a lot of questions about my medical history and so forth, a blood test and a Covid test.

The second appointment in mid-December was for the second injection. I was expecting another blood test and another Covid test, but they weren’t required, which was a Good Thing.

Yesterday’s appointment wasn’t for another jab, but just to check how I’m doing – literally just a blood test and a question about how I’d been after the 2nd injection.

I had no side-effects from the first jab, apart from my arm aching for about 5 minutes. But I definitely had side-effects from the 2nd one. The arm ached to the point of actually hurting, and was still hurting so much when I went to bed that night that I couldn’t sleep on that side.

The next morning I was due to go to the gym at 8, so I’d set my alarm for 6 to have a bite of breakfast before I went. While I was waiting for the toast to pop, I started to realise I didn’t feel too good.

Made my tea, buttered my toast, and took it back to bed. Definitely not feeling very well. Managed two bites of toast then cancelled the gym session. By 6:30 I was lying down again, and I slept until gone 9. Really not well. I ached from head to foot. Literally everything ached – behind my eyes, my arm where the injection had gone in, my fingers, my thighs, my knees, even the arch of my foot ached.

I had no Covid symptoms – no cough, no temperature (they provide us with a thermometer just in case), no change of taste. I just felt rough. I stayed in bed until lunchtime, then decided enough was enough and took Nurofen and paracetamol. Once they’d taken effect, I felt able to get dressed and get myself downstairs. I finished off the cold toast that I’d made for breakfast and called it lunch. All I was capable of doing was watching rubbish on the TV. It happened to be a day off – but if I’d been at work that day I’d have had to call in sick.

By 4 I was beginning to feel slightly better and managed something out of the freezer for my dinner. But I was back in bed by 9, and my right arm was still hurting so that I couldn’t lie on it.

All very peculiar. It’s a double-blind trial, with a 50:50 chance of receiving the real vaccine. Does having side-effects mean I was given the ‘real’ vaccine? Nope. What they call a placebo is actually another vaccine, with actual side-effects, so you still don’t know if you’ve had it or not. They do this because they don’t want you to change your behaviour.

If I knew I’d had the actual vaccine I might stop wearing a mask, for example.

Ironically, because they’re now rolling out the other vaccines, I could find myself in the position of not being able to have one of those vaccines, because this trial will go on for a year. I could have been one of the first people to receive a Covid vaccine – or I could be one of the last people to get it.

I’ll be told whether or not I had the real thing once the trial is closed off. I know that there are records somewhere that can be accessed. For example if I need to go into hospital in an emergency, I carry a card with a phone number that the emergency services can ring so they can find out for sure if I’ve had the vaccine or not.

I specifically asked where I stood re getting the current vaccine. Basically, if I’m offered the Covid vaccine (and it’ll be a while before they get to ‘otherwise healthy 60 year olds’), and I want to have it, I need to contact them. They will then ‘unblind’ me and advise me what to do based on whether I’ve already had the trial vaccine or whether I did indeed just get the placebo. I’m guessing having a vaccine would remove me from the trial – can’t really tell if the trial vaccine has worked if I’ve also had the other one.

Blood test all done and dusted (it’ll probably come back as ‘80% chocolate’…) and back in the car within 20 minutes.

I’d like to say that my journey across the Pennines in the snow was a Boys’ Own adventure that involved scraping penguins off the windscreen and sighting polar bears on the horizon. Sadly it was very straightforward, and apart from a lot of spray on the motorway there was no excitement at all.

The next appointment is March.

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