'Why I decided to take part in the new Covid-19 vaccine trial at Blackpool Victoria Hospital'

There are certain words and phrases that over the past year have made their way into everyday vernacular where once they would have only felt at home in a science fiction book.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 5:37 pm
Some 120 people are taking part in a new Covid-19 vaccine trial at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Deputy news editor MICHAEL HOLMES was patient number five – and says the path to normality is beginning to look like the home straight

Pandemic. Quarantine. Lockdown. Face masks. Stay at home order.

The list could continue until the end of this page.

But as I flicked through a patient information and consent form, waiting to be stuck in the arm with a mystery vaccine, I found myself reading and re-reading one particular sentence: “The virus strain used in this vaccine was derived from a Chinese tourist from Hubei who was diagnosed in a hospital in Rome, Italy.”

And yet I wasn’t apprehensive. I felt fortunate.

As I walked up to the Lancashire Cardiac Centre in the sunshine early this morning, strolling past the rubble remains of the former Parkwood unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, I knew the best part of a thousand people had died with Covid just yards away.

I was to become the fifth patient to be given VLA2001, the Covid-19 trial vaccine from French firm Valneva... possibly.

It’s a 50/50 chance I was injected with inactivated Covid, which is the old fashioned approach Valneva is taking with its jab, or Oxford/AstraZeneca’s vaccine, itself derived from genetically modified chimp virus.

Filling in forms came first, with blood and urine samples taken next.

My blood pressure – a little high, thanks to white coat syndrome – and pulse – much lower thanks to my lockdown running – was recorded.

My weight and height – I seem to have lost an inch, I used to be six foot, honest – noted also.

And then came the tiny scratch the conspiracy theorists claim will implant a microchip but the highly-trained and trustworthy boffins insist will bring to an end the disease that has plagued the planet.

It was the easiest part of the process, though not the best.

That came shortly afterwards, when the details of my bank account were taken and the schedule of payments given.

£600 to save my life?! I’d like to do this twice, I thought as I sat with a bottle of water and biscuit.

Following some final observations, with my blood pressure back at a healthier level, and around 90 minutes after first walking through the doors, I was allowed to go home.

I’m writing this several hours later, free of signs of any side effects save from a headache which was banished with paracetamol.

On my fridge is a piece of blue card reminding me I have a second jab booked in at the end of the month.

Have I really just been paid to be fully vaccinated, as a healthy guy in his early – alright, mid – 30s by the summer?

It’s hard to believe, but yes.

Now I can’t speak about the effectiveness or overall safety of the Valneva vaccine, if indeed that’s the one I was given.

I’m sure the data will be crunched and, when the time is right, sent out to the media in a wordy press release.

But if previous generations made sacrifices that involved the likes of sprinting towards a heavily-armed enemy over a booby-trapped and mine-sodden No Man’s Land, and if the jab has already passed its phase one and two testing programmes, then I think I can live with the minuscule risk.

I don’t want to brag, but I also drove to the hospital despite the tiny chance of being trapped in a metal tomb by a speeding drink-driver.

I left my Vauxhall in a parking space and shunned the risk of being crushed by a meteor or keeling over dead from a random aneurysm.

After a year of missing out on so much, there’s not much I wouldn’t do to get life back to normal.

But in the end I just had to show up and let someone put a needle in my arm.

The path to normality is starting to look like the home stretch.

Around 120 people are taking part in the trial at the Vic.

Those 18-30 will get the Valneva jab.

Those 30-plus will get Valneva or AstraZenica.

All are paid £550-600.

To register your interest, email [email protected]

It is thanks to our loyal readers that we can continue to provide the trusted news, analysis and insight that matters to you. For unlimited access to our unrivalled local reporting, you can take out a subscription here and help support the work of our dedicated team of reporters.