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Case study: Taking part in COVID research: Elisa’s story

Taking part in COVID research: Elisa’s story

Oxford’s Elisa Granato, 35, took part in one of the first COVID-19 vaccine trials which opened shortly after the World Health Organisation declared the pandemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in January 2020. 

The national University of Oxford study Phase I/II Trial of a Candidate COVID-19 Vaccine (COV001) assessed the efficacy and safety of a new vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 in healthy adults. Participants were randomly allocated to receive either the vaccine or a placebo injection. Researchers and participants did not know which was received, to prevent unconscious bias when evaluating study outcomes. Over the following 12 months, participants received blood tests and were asked about any symptoms.

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How did you come to take part in the trial? 

I work at the University of Oxford and an email was circulated to staff asking for volunteers for the trial. I signed up immediately.

Why did you choose to take part in the trial?

We had just gone into the first COVID-19 lockdown, and we were all at home feeling rather helpless and worried. When I had the opportunity to take in the Oxford vaccine trial, I immediately signed up because I felt that it was a great way to meaningfully contribute to the research in this area. I am also a scientist myself, so I was very curious about what drug trials look like from the perspective of a participant.

What was your experience of taking part in the trial? 

The trial itself was a breeze – all staff members involved were very friendly, the atmosphere was relaxed and professional and it was obvious that they put my safety and comfort above all else. They communicated exactly what was going to happen at each visit, informed me of any risks and made sure I understood everything involved in taking part. At the time, participants and researchers didn’t know who received the vaccine or a placebo. I found out a few weeks after the trial ended that I was given the vaccine. During each follow-up visit, they simply took blood samples and asked me some health-related questions. It was quite easy and not much work at all.

What would you say to other people about taking part in research? 

If you ever have the opportunity to take part in research, I can highly recommend it. It is a unique, interesting and fulfilling experience. I learned a lot about how research trials are organised and how the researchers try to make it as easy as possible for the participants. It was also quite fun and surreal to read the scientific publications about the results of the trial I took part in and to know that I am one of the data points in the graphs. It was a nice reminder that if many individuals volunteer a small chunk of their time, big things can happen.

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