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Case study: Retired radiographer ends career as pioneering research participant

Kate Hedger, a retired radiographer from Fareham in Hampshire, was part of more than 2800 volunteers who took part in the world-first Cov-Boost vaccine trial led by University Hospital Southampton.

Mrs Hedger, 62, retired from the NHS in June 2021 and, after working on the frontline up until then, felt a desire to continue do her bit to support the pandemic response and help protect people against COVID-19.

“I found out about the study from my local news programme,” she explained. “As a healthcare professional I had my COVID-19 vaccinations quite early on so I thought I might be eligible to take part.

“It sounds really cliche to say but I wanted to do my bit, I wanted the trial to be a success.

“I didn’t want to retire and have no knowledge of what’s going on and I felt that being a part of this trial helped with this.

“It was nice to be given the opportunity to take part in the trial and I feel so proud of it all being local to me.”

She added: “I’m fit and healthy and I knew I was going to have more time on my hands.

“I retired on the 1 June, the day before I came for my first trial visit, so it's a date I’ll never forget.”

It was not only a memorable time for Mrs Hedger due to the start of her retirement and first trial visit either, as she also became a grandmother on the day she joined the study.

“My son and his partner had my first grandchild, a little boy called Robert, the day I joined the trial. I remember going to the trial feeling very, very excited.”

Participants involved in the trial received a third ‘booster’ dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and attended regular follow-up appointments to help researchers understand the longevity of the immune response
and the degree of protection given.

Mrs Hedger said: “Before the trial started, the staff explained everything.

“They would explain things 100 times over if you wanted which was really nice and I was never left on my own doubting something or worrying.”

She describes her experience of taking part in research as positive and is keen to promote the benefits to others.

“It’s been a very positive experience,” she explained. “It was fantastic to have such lovely staff who make you feel at ease and as if you’re part of something and it was nice to feel part of something really important.

“Participating in research comes with a sort of a feel-good factor, it feels like you're doing your bit and I would really encourage other people to do the same.

“I’m so proud to have been a part of the COV-Boost trial and the fact that the results are of such importance internationally is just fantastic.”