Don’t be nervous of ‘life saver’ vaccine, says Novavax trial volunteer

Alistair Mason, PA
·3-min read

A trial volunteer for the effective new Novavax vaccine has encouraged the public to get their jabs.

Interim trial results suggest the new jab is 89% effective in preventing Covid-19 with a two-shot programme and it could become the fourth coronavirus vaccine to be approved for use in the UK.

There have been pockets of the public who have expressed uncertainty about the new vaccines because of the speed with which they have been developed.

Trial volunteer Andrew Stronach, from Norwich, told the PA news agency: “I understand that people might be nervous about new vaccines but, from my point of view, having been through this process, I’ve got absolutely no doubt that the scientists are being really thorough about what they’re doing, they’re being really careful about people’s safety.

“Vaccines are life savers – they’ve changed world health over the last 50, 60 years and these vaccines will hopefully do the same thing with coronavirus.”

Novavax trial volunteer Andrew Stronach
Novavax trial volunteer Andrew Stronach described vaccines as ‘life savers’ (Andrew Stronach/PA)

Ravindra Chaudhari, who has a background in virology and also volunteered for the trial, said he felt from the start of the pandemic “it was pretty obvious that the only real way out was global vaccination”.

He was keen to sign up for a trial because of his firm belief in vaccines.

The 49-year-old from Leeds told PA: “We’ve got 100,000 people dead in this country, which to be honest is a disgrace – for a first-world nation like ours to have that death toll is a disgrace.

“We ask people like care home workers to work in care homes when there’s a virus circulating, we ask people to go into hospitals – NHS workers, ICU workers – in the same way we ask young people to go forward and fight and get shot in the army.

“At some point, people have to say ‘if we believe in this we have to do something’, and that’s where my mindset was – the only way out of this is vaccines.”

Following on from the Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, should the Novavax jab get MHRA approval there will be four available for use in the UK.

Mr Chaudhari said: “My view is the more vaccine candidates we have available the merrier.

“It means we can vaccinate more people faster and also it means you can now sort of stratify people – you want to give certain people one vaccine and certain people another based on clinical evidence.”

In a double-blinded trial, volunteers do not know if they are receiving the candidate vaccine or a placebo.

Mr Stronach and Mr Chaudhari, who were part of the phase three trial, both reported mild soreness from the jab but no major side effects.

Mr Stronach, who works for Quadram Institute where the Novavax trials were being held in Norwich, said he feels some pride about having been involved in the trial.

“I do because we’re all trying to do the best we can in what is a horrible situation,” the 51-year-old said.

“What we’re being asked to do essentially is to stay at home and stay away from other people, which is pretty hard going at times, so I’ve really enjoyed the fact that I am doing something to help a lot of people in the long term.

“I joked to my wife that when I have grandchildren, when they say ‘what did you do during the pandemic Granddad?’ I can say ‘I was a guinea pig for the vaccine’.”