By Keith Cornish

Margot & I spent the first few months from the beginning of ‘Lockdown 1’ in April making gowns, scrubs and face coverings for various NHS Trusts, Hospice Care Homes etc. and NHS friends around the country. In addition, we became NHS Responders and have been supporting a local Care Home by shopping and collecting prescriptions etc. for Resident’s family members.

However, when it became clear that a second wave was on the way and that a vaccine was the only way that the Pandemic was going to be controlled, we contacted the Covid-19 research Team and volunteered to take part in the NovavaxCovid-19 vaccine trial in Exeter. Fortunately, or otherwise, we were both ‘randomly’ selected to take part. 

The trial lasts for one year and involves visits to Exeter onseveral occasions. At our first appointment (Day 1) at The Nightingale Hospital in early November the following took place:

– A lot of form filling (consent forms etc.) with signatures and a questionnaire.

– A physical assessment including blood pressure, oxygen levels, temperature, height and weight etc.

– Taking of bloods for initial analysis.

– A PCR swab test to rule out active Coronavirus infection.

– Finally, the 1st injection of either the vaccine or a placebo.

All followed by the customary cup of tea and biscuits!

Neither of us had much of a reaction to the injection other than what would normally be expected from a flu jab. Margotdid, however, have two episodes of a raised temperature. She also experienced general aches and pains and headaches.

However, following the second of the two injections (Day21) in late November which included:

– A general assessment of our wellbeing after the first jab.

– A physical assessment including blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels, height and weight etc.

– The second injection.

Another cup of tea and biscuits!

We both became very unwell the following day. It quickly became obvious to us that we had both received the NovavaxCovid-19 vaccine (NVX-CoV2373).

Our temperatures went up to the high 37°C’s/mid/ high38°C’s (36.8°C is normal) the following morning. This was accompanied by constant bad headaches, muscle aches and pains, very sore arm/neck, a general feeling of fatigue and, in my case, being hoarse. The worst of the symptoms lasted a few days. 

Over the past week most, but not all of these symptoms have improved or gone, but some still persist and they are still a problem.

Although we were fully aware of the various symptoms that previous and current participants in the Novavax Covid-19 Trial have experienced (thoroughly researched by Margot), we were both surprised at the speed of onset, their severity and length of time they have persisted for. This vaccine is not yet available for general use as it is still undergoing trials and takes longer to manufacture. It also has an adjuvant which boosts the immune system response (it certainly did that). Vaccines currently becoming available are better tolerated and mild symptoms have been experienced by the majority of trial participants. 

We have had TWO NHS PCR swab tests in the past two weeks. Both have come back negative, so we believe that we both received the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine and that the above symptoms were/are the results of our bodies reacting to and building up T-cells anti-bodies to help protect us from the Covid-19 virus.

As unpleasant as the experience has been to date, it is obviously nothing compared to how we would have suffered had we contracted Covid-19 and we feel privileged to be two of the volunteers who are helping the World to find solutions to this Pandemic.

Wishing you all the best and looking forward to seeing you all again on the water in 2021 when life will, hopefully, return to some form of normality as we knew it.

Stay safe, the vaccines are coming.