I wanted to give something back: the academic who signed up for the Novavax trial – The Guardian

Coronavirus

Librarian says she feels ‘very lucky’ working from home, so she volunteered for the vaccine test

Sat 30 Jan 2021 07.52 EST

While many have endured almost a year of stress and hardship during the Covid crisis in the UK, others have remained relatively unscathed.

Caroline Ball, a 37-year-old academic librarian from just outside Derby, has even felt guilty at times, having the good fortune of a stable job which she can do from home and not worrying about homeschooling children.

Her way to give back a little to society, she says, was taking part in the Novavax vaccine trial. “I’ve been quite isolated from the stress and pain people are going through. I recognise I’ve been very lucky,” she said.

The vaccine has shown nearly 90% efficacy in the UK-based trials and the ability to work against the UK and South African variants of the virus. With 60m doses already purchased by the UK vaccines taskforce, there are hopes it could boost the country’s immunisation programme if it is given emergency authorisation by the regulator.

“Having a range of viable vaccines will benefit everybody,” says Ball, describing her participation in the Birmingham trial as “no selfless act … That’s the way out of this.”

She says she was paid travel expenses for her trips to the trial site and may have experienced some side-effects after the second jab – which is not uncommon when the body triggers an immune response.

“I started in November last year, and so far I’ve made three visits to the clinic – the first for the initial assessment and jab, then three weeks later for the second jab mid-December, then a third visit three weeks later for blood tests. I’m due back for further blood tests at the start of March.


“I had a bit of a headache after the second jab, I was a bit tired and achy, and had some stomach pains. But this could have happened anyway during a tiring day,” Ball adds, saying she does not know if she was given the placebo or the vaccine.

“I wasn’t ever worried about the vaccine or health risks, I trust scientists and have a lot of faith in research. When something has got to a phase 3 trial they’re pretty confident about it already otherwise it wouldn’t have got past phase 1 and 2.”

She says any focus on the speed at which Covid vaccines have been developed avoids the more important issue of the pace of other vaccine developments.

“When people are focusing on how fast this has been, it’s the wrong question; the question is why other vaccines have gone so slowly,” she says. “When you throw money at a medical problem you can have vaccines very, very quickly.”

Although she has not been adversely affected by the pandemic and the effects of the responses, Ball and her family were worried when her aunt and uncle, who are in their 80s, contracted Covid last year.

“Luckily they pulled through, it was only mild, even though my uncle has cancer,” she says. “I’ve been very fortunate throughout the pandemic, and have worked from home without being forced into a workplace. I’ve been fit and healthy the whole time, my family are all fine and I don’t have kids, so not worrying about homeschooling.


“There’s so much talk about mental health issues and people losing their jobs and businesses. I thought this is something I can do to give back a little bit and try and get us out of this.”

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