I’ve been asking people to take part in clinical research for years. Last month, it was my turn to be asked.
My name’s Josh and I work for West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust as a research paramedic. I’ve been in the job since 2016 and love it! The work is very varied, and one of my favourite parts is talking to patients and their families about being part of research. These are open conversations about the benefits and the risks of taking part in studies. I am struck by how often people are willing to accept inconvenience and intrusion into their lives – perhaps at an already difficult time – in order to help others.
Last month, the boot was on the other foot. I took a test at work and found out I was negative for COVID-19 antibodies. A colleague pointed out that I could be eligible for the Oxford study which aims to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. I took a look at their website and, indeed, it did look like I might be able to take part.
Did I hesitate at this point? I must admit, reading that there would be six visits involved, I did think, “maybe if I don’t do it, someone else will instead.” It sounded inconvenient. Then I realised that if everyone said that, there would be no study – there would be no vaccine.
Studies around the world have shown that just trying things, without comparing them to not trying, doesn’t find treatments that work. For this study, I was injected on the dramatic-sounding Day 0 with either a COVID-19 vaccine or meningitis vaccine. I don’t know which – still – so I can’t be cautious or cavalier in my behaviour.
Any difference in what happens to me will be because of whatever was put in my arm that day, compared across two large groups of around 5,000 people.
For the next year, I’m having weekly swabs, as well as blood tests at 1, 3, 6 and 12 months. It is a strange thought that after the first visit, it is quite simply a waiting game to see how many of us become unwell – those who had the vaccine, and those who didn’t, none of us knowing which category we sit in.
Two things about being part of research comfort me. The first – that a huge number of researchers are working on COVID19 studies as we speak. In my day job, my own department at West Midlands Ambulance Service discussed a new study just today.
The second thing I know only too well from the day job – if people don’t want to be part of research, we can’t make care better. It is wonderful that I am just one of hundreds of thousands of people signing up to help others, by being part of research.
If you want to be one of them, follow this link.