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Dan McAteer describes his reaction more as a sense of relief than elation when his phone pinged on Monday morning with a push alert reporting that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has up to 90% efficacy.
Several months on from becoming one of thousands of volunteers in trials of the Covid-19 vaccine, the 23-year-old student is trying to comprehend the news that people could be vaccinated as early as next month
“The main thing is not wanting to hope too much, especially after the ups and downs of this year, but there is an underlying relief that this nightmare might finally be over,” he said.
Producing academic work to deadline under lockdown has not been easy. “Doing a one-year master’s from your bedroom is something I don’t recommend,” said McAteer, who had no adverse side-effects through a first month of keeping a diary and beyond.
While somewhat jaded and worried about the ability of the British government not to botch the roll-out of the vaccine – “it’s going to require trust and efficiency” – in another breath he adds: “In all honesty it really is a great day and, dare I say it, things can only get better.”
He is particularly proud that the Oxford breakthrough could open the door to a cheap and more easily transportable solution – in comparison with some of the other vaccine candidates – to be made available to some of the world’s poorest countries.
“I think there has been a bit too much focus on the UK and the discourse has been all about what it can do for us. But in some ways the most important aspect of this vaccine is what it can do for developing countries, and I think that really is something to be proud of.”
McAteer still does not know if he was given the actual vaccine or a placebo, but anticipates that this information will soon be unblinded, and would happily take up the offer of receiving the vaccine if it emerges he is yet to have it.
Another Oxford volunteer quietly celebrating on Monday was Sarah Hurst, who said she was pleasantly surprised not to have felt any adverse impact since first getting a jab in June as part of the trial.
She had been keen to take part, she said, adding: “I was in the area to do it and during lockdown there have been so many people who have been unable to do anything other than stay at home so I was glad to be able to play some part.”
“There have been indications that it will be unblinded but I understand that they will want to continue the trial to see how effective it is and I will probably choose to continue with it,” added the 47-year-old journalist, who lives with her 12-year-old daughter and her mother, who is in her 70s.
Like McAteer, she also emphasised the Oxford vaccine’s advantages, such as its ability to remain potent with limited need for specialist fridge storage.
“I love that this vaccine is portable and can be manufactured cheaply. Distribution will be crucial but I think that the people who should get it first should be key workers.”
Source: The Guardian
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