A former Vancouver resident is sharing his first-hand experience as one of the thousands of people who’ve agreed to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials around the world.
Peter Wearing, who now lives in Arizona, is participating in the Stage 3 trial for the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The U.K.-based drug maker’s vaccine is seen as an important part of the vaccine solution, as it does not need to be transported at supercooled temperatures, and is being offered at a fraction of the price of its rivals.
Both elements make it particularly promising for the developing world.
“I felt that I was healthy and I’ve had vaccines in the past and never had adverse reactions, so I felt that I’ll do my part,” Wearing told Global News.
“My first visit I signed lots of paperwork, they took four vials of blood, I had a physical from a doctor.”
He was then given two shots, two months apart — the second just two days ago. Wearing isn’t sure if he’s getting the actual vaccine, or is in a control group getting a placebo.
He said some people do get reactions typical of a flu vaccine, such as rashes or fevers, but he did not.
“You don’t even really feel it going in, it’s that fine of a needle. The next day your muscle is a bit tender,” he said.
Oxford and AstraZeneca reported in November that their vaccine appeared to be 62 per cent effective in people who received two doses, and 90 per cent effective when volunteers were given a half dose followed by a full dose.
It later emerged that they’d discovered the half-dose advantage due to a manufacturing error that saw some people get a lower dose unintentionally. The company may conduct a future clinical trial specifically around the half-then-full dose program.
Wearing said it was important for him to participate because he still remembers an era when children commonly got polio. Vaccine development was critical to eradicating that disease.
“I have a lot of friends that are anti-vaxxers. I mean, they’re pretty serious about it, they’ve even challenged me on this,” he said.
“About five years ago I took the time to read what they said is their research, and then I read the counter-research. I’m a science guy, I like science, and in the end I came down on the side of traditional science.”
Wearing said he’s given a two-year commitment to the project, and doctors will continue to take blood samples to test Wearing for antibodies to the virus.
But he’s also been told that if he is, in fact, in the placebo group he will be given the actual vaccine if and when it wins approval in the U.S.
“The fact that this is coming out so fast, less than a year, is really exciting,” he said.
Canada has preordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but it is unclear when it could win regulatory approval.