What is it like volunteering for a Covid-19 vaccine trial?

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board recruited almost 450 participants to the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial Credit: Health and Care Research Wales

Vaccines must pass rigorous safety tests before they are approved. Part of this includes clinical trials. While the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccines have been approved for use in the UK, other trials are continuing.

In May, the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine study set up the Wales site in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. The study recruited people from the local area, mainly health care workers who were likely to be exposed to positive Covid-19 cases through their job roles.

Brian Begg, a 39-year-old cardiac rehabilitation exercise practitioner who works at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr in Caerphilly, is one of the hundreds of participants who registered to take part in the study.

Cardiac healthcare worker Brian took part in a Covid vaccine trial Credit: Health and Care Research Wales

Brian, from Newport, first got invited to take part in the Oxford-AstraZeneca trial in May.

He said: "When the email came out from the research and development department looking for recruits, it was a no brainer for me to get involved... The science and research behind it is strong, and it seemed they had robust procedures so I signed up. Along with 20,000 others it seems!"

When he went to his first appointment at the clinic, Brian said it felt like "a really safe environment to be in."

Brian said his family were "a bit more nervous" than him about his role in the trial.

"There’s an awful lot of misconceptions about this vaccine. Family members were asking 'can it give you COVID? Will you get it?' It’s not that sort of vaccine. I’m young, healthy and haven’t got underlying health issues, so my relative risk is low. From taking part, I felt I could help explain the facts to my family, rather than misconceptions and myths! The benefits of taking part far outweigh the risks for me.

"There has been 10 to 15 years of research leading up to the Oxford vaccine being first produced last January/February. Like with the flu vaccine, people always have a choice and can weigh up their own personal risks, and the Covid vaccine will be the same. The more people that get vaccinated the better, but people can choose what to do with their own bodies."

Brian said taking part in the trial helped him explain the facts to his family Credit: Health and Care Research Wales

As part of the study, participants have been tested for Covid every week.

Brian has six more weekly tests to do and then a follow up at the end of March.

Despite the fact a second Covid vaccine has been approved to roll-out across Wales from next week, further research is still ongoing. Brian said he thinks people should get involved in trials "if they’re happy to and they’re aware of the process."

In 2021, Brian said he hopes things start getting back to "some degree of normality".

He said: "In my area of work in cardiac rehabilitation, heart disease remains one of the biggest killers in the UK and the world. It will be great to get back to giving chronic conditions - other than Covid - the attention they need."