Article of the week: Doing my bit
19 June 2021
Major Richard Durrant (North Walsham) reflects on his experience of taking part in a Covid-19 vaccine trial
I AM sure that I express the thoughts of many Salvationist readers when I say how thankful I am to God for the scientists and all those who made possible the vaccines that are finally allowing us to get the better of Covid-19. I was privileged to play a part in the process of developing the vaccines when I was asked to take part in a trial last September.
This happened after I put my name forward through the Covid Symptom Study app. I didn’t necessarily expect to take part but was contacted by Novavax and invited to participate.
I first had to attend a screening at the Quadram Institute attached to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. They gave me a thorough health check and screening. Although I am an overweight, diabetic 64-year-old, they wanted a good spread of volunteers across varying ages and health conditions and I was pleased that I met the parameters that allowed me to join the trial.
After taking an antibody blood test to see if I had contracted Covid-19 before, and a swab test to check if I had it at the time, I received my first jab. Half the folk on the trial were to receive a placebo and half were to receive the vaccine that Novavax had developed. We were all kept under observation for about 30 minutes after having the jab, which included temperature and blood pressure checks, before being allowed to go home.
Three weeks later, in early November, I was back again. Some further health checks were done and a second jab was administered. Again, they kept a close eye on me for 30 minutes or so while observations took place. At that stage
I did not know whether I had received the vaccine or the placebo. What I did know was that a total of about 10,000 volunteers were taking part in this trial at 20 centres across the UK.
In January the first trial results were announced on the national news and were extremely successful, showing more than 90 per cent effectiveness for the vaccine. In other words, of those who had contracted coronavirus during the trial, those who had received the placebo were something like 10 times the number of those who had received the vaccine.
In February and May I went again for further tests. My final visit is scheduled for this November, a year after my second jab. I played just a small part in the process, but it came at a time when I felt hopeless about doing much about this virus and its spread, and it felt good to be doing something. I was so impressed with the thoroughness of the doctors and nurses who met with me, and I thank God for the privilege of taking part.
The vaccination programme will be with us for the foreseeable future, so the research continues apace in the form of these ongoing trials, which include taking into account the new variants. I thank God for the scientists and the doctors and nurses who have enabled these vaccines to be developed so amazingly quickly.
The government has ordered 60 million doses of Novavax, which are to be manufactured at Stockton-on-Tees, and this vaccine is going through the approval process, which should allow it to join the others that are being used in the UK. I understand that Novavax is also going to be used in the USA and many other countries. Hopefully many, many lives will be changed by this discovery as they experience the protection and efficacy this offers for all. Praise God!
While those taking part in vaccine trials number in the thousands, it is marvellous that their participation will change the lives of millions of people. This reminds me of the parable of the sower, in which the seeds led to a harvest a hundred times greater than what was sown.
It is also true of our work for God. Sometimes our efforts seem small and unimportant, but God still uses them. Jesus once took a lad’s packed lunch, which seemed like an insignificant offering, blessed it and multiplied it to feed more than 5,000 people – and this is the kind of thing he can do with any of our offerings for the Kingdom. It is good to bear this in mind if you are ever feeling hopeless about the part you play or feel like giving up.
As Paul wrote: ‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58).