“They were well intentioned, but a parent shared an online article on what was clearly false news that one of the participants in the trial had died,” said the 23-year-old student.
“It didn’t stop me in the least, but there was a kind of strange dynamic because it was on Facebook, which had played a role in my recruitment when I saw an original advertisement for volunteers. In fact, he pointed out why the vaccine was so important. You have a feeling that society is crumbling. “
Two weeks have now passed and the fact that a vaccine against the global pandemic can pulsate in his body (half of the study participants receive the Covid-19 vaccine and the other half a control) has largely disappeared .
Like others, he will soon undergo the first monthly blood test, but in the meantime, he has taken his temperature and connected online to record the symptoms.
“Everything is very well organized and you are given emergency contact details if necessary, but by the second week, you have simply become a data point in someone else’s spreadsheet,” a- he declared.
If it sounds like a modest assessment of his role in something that could save millions of lives and allow the world to return to a semblance of normalcy, then he is just as oblivious as to his reasons for participating.
“I felt guilty, to be honest – aware of the privileges of youth, health and being able to stay at home,” said McAteer, a graduate student studying the history of science, medicine and technology at St Edmund Hall, one of the universities. colleges.
“There are thousands of people fighting for breath, dramatically biased by class and race. But there are also thousands of caregivers, nurses and doctors who collapse from exhaustion at the end of another mega-shift every day. So I thought: my brain is completely useless, maybe my body can help. “
This admiration for healthcare workers is also reflected in his invocation of the staff he met on the day the vaccine was administered, comparing them to the generation assembled for the war effort in 1939.
He remembers feeling flattered after arriving on a bicycle when a nurse also participating in the trial mistook him for a young doctor. “No, I’m one of the guinea pigs,” he said at the time.
“For an old university, they really started at high speed. You can say that things have been fixed urgently, but also that they know what they are doing. There is a special type of doctor who exudes gentle and studious authority while working. There seem to be quite a few around. For a small group of doctors and scientists, it’s like a body of engineers bridging a war zone together: fast and methodical. “
McAteer also spoke of medical students who had been enlisted to help through the NHS, meeting one who helped him with certain documents: “I was struck by how his university life was turned upside down even more than mine. He should have been on rotation or stuffing for exams, but had instead been deployed to work at Covid for the foreseeable future. “
In a small room – “like any other in a doctor’s office” – he lay down and received the injection from a nurse who, like him, did not know if it was the vaccine or the control, a well-established meningitis vaccine.
“She was one of those really experienced people who have incredible skills but who are also really soothing, one of those people who can just keep the conversation going.”
Just over an hour later, after undergoing temperature and other checks, he was on his way back, where he experienced some mild symptoms that night, consistent with some of the common side effects. expected from vaccines.
“I had a fever, chills and headache the night of my jab, but it all cleared up within 24 hours. Nothing to fear in my personal experience. “
Life has returned to a lock-in routine in the house he shares with his girlfriend, in which the need to meet impending academic deadlines has kept boredom at bay.
Like many people, their consumption of news exploded – although interest in evening Downing Street briefings declined – and he compared the national image to “a bit of an Oxford psychodrama” involving Chris Whitty, Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and other alumni.
McAteer also closely followed coverage of the vaccine trial: “It is clear that the university was very optimistic in their communications and Professor Sarah Gilbert, who heads the project, even publicly launched the idea of be ready by September. “
It’s a level of optimism that he doesn’t quite share: “September or even October feels like a very optimistic scenario.” But he very much hopes that the vaccine will succeed.
Most importantly, there is general admiration for those involved in the trial and broader efforts to attack Covid-19: “We are talking about people who do it with professionalism and compassion. Some people sneakily call the NHS a national religion. But I think it’s a very good option. “