Exclusive: “100% alive” Dr Elisa Granato, first vaccine recipient, shares her experience

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A day after participating in the first human trial of a Covid-19 vaccine known as “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19”, Dr Granato updated her Twitter profile to read “100 % alive” after false stories were circulated claiming the vaccine had killed her. She later tweeted to confirm that these stories were fake and to urge people to stop sharing them.

Dr Granato was the first person to take part in the trial.

Dr Elisa Granato is a microbiology researcher, working in the University’s Zoology department. She was the first person to be vaccinated in the trial and agreed to speak exclusively with The Oxford Student about her experience:

“Participating in the Oxford vaccine trial has been an exciting experience so far. I mainly went into this thinking this will be extremely interesting, especially as a scientist, to see the ‘other side’ of clinical trials. To see what it feels like to be a participant in one, and not just reading about the data in a paper someday”.

Oxford University researchers began the first UK testing for a COVID-19 vaccine in human volunteers on 23rd April. Researchers are anticipating up to 1,102 participants, half receiving the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, whilst the control group receive a widely distributed meningitis vaccine (MenACWY). Participants must all be aged 18-55, in good health, and have tested negative for COVID-19.

“[I got] a lot of attention from the media, countless emails from all over the world, and – sadly – some pretty vicious online attacks by individuals and groups opposed to vaccines.”

Dr Granato explains, “To make things more complicated, I got randomly chosen to be the first person to be vaccinated.” This resulted in “a lot of attention from the media, countless emails from all over the world, and – sadly – some pretty vicious online attacks by individuals and groups opposed to vaccines.”

The COVID-19 vaccine trial has taken centre-stage in UK media and has been met by a spectrum of responses. Doctors and professors leading the Oxford trial have received social-media criticism from the anti-vax community, many of whom protest the use of the vaccination on religious or moral grounds. Others have condemned the idea of testing on aborted foetal cells – those working on the vaccine trial have confirmed that this was never a part of their process. Dr Granato tells us that whilst “this whole experience so far has been really rewarding and insightful, it has also made me keenly aware of what vaccine researchers and other medical professionals must be going through on a daily basis.”

“A significant proportion of vaccines that are tested in clinical trials don’t work.”

On the other side of the coin, many people are investing a great deal of hope in the vaccine, and are speculating about how long it might be before its distribution. The Oxford researchers remain confident in the vaccine, partnering with global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in preparation for its mass production. Last year, the Jenner Institute successfully tested a vaccine for an earlier coronavirus, whilst Oxford Professor Sarah Gilbert has previously worked to create a vaccine against previous coronavirus MERS. However, the University has warned, “a high proportion of vaccines are found not to be promising even before clinical trials. Moreover, a significant proportion of vaccines that are tested in clinical trials don’t work.”

Regarding the search for an effective vaccine, Granato explains, “It will be many months before we know the outcome, there are other vaccine trials going on in parallel in other countries. It remains to be seen if any of them can offer a long-term solution to this pandemic. Until then, stay home and stay safe!”

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