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COVID-19: UK starts vaccine trials on humans today

One of the first Britons to sign up for the coronavirus vaccination scheme has spoken about the symptoms he’s expecting as the trial starts today.

Simeon Courtie, speaking to Good Morning Britain from Oxfordshire, said he was expecting to catch a fever ‘at worse’ as he stepped forward to help find a cure to the killer disease.

He said: ‘The trials start today but my first vaccination is next Wednesday. They think it will be something along the lines of having the flu. You might just get very mild side effects, but at worst maybe a fever for a couple of days and some aches and pains.

‘It shouldn’t be too disruptive to my life.’

Mr Courtie explained he was one of hundreds of volunteers taking part in a trial to see if the University of Oxford’s trial was safe. After that has been confirmed it could be used to try and cure patients with COVID-19.

Screening for around 500 people took place at the Jenner Institute near Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.

As well as the vaccination trial in Oxford, there is another being carried out by Imperial College London set to begin later this year.

 Mr Courtie described himself as ‘just a very small part of this thing’.

He added: ‘We are the safety part of this process and then after my trial there will be an efficacy trial out in the community to see if it works and that will involve thousands of people.

‘I go on Wednesday to the Jenner Institute and then I’ve got a second vaccination a month after that and then one or two more depending on which group I’m in, because there are different groups in the trial.’

The trial has been split into two groups, those who are being given the vaccine and those who are not. However, participants do not know which group they’re in.

Mr Courtie explained: ‘It’s a blind trial you don’t know which group you’re in.

‘There’s no placebo group where you’re given something like sugar water. You’re either given the new vaccine which they’re developing or a vaccine that’s already licensed, it’s actually the vaccine they give teenagers to protect them against meningits.

‘The side effects of that vaccine are very similar to the side effects of the new vaccine so you don’t know which you’re on.’

Piers Morgan described Mr Courtie’s decision to take part as ‘gutsy,’ adding: ‘Thank you for what you’re doing, it’s greatly appreciated.’

The Oxford vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 will be trialled on up to 510 people out of a group of 1,112, all of whom will be aged 18 to 55.

Project manager John Jukes, 36, of Witney, Oxfordshire, is another Oxford volunteeer.

He said: ‘I don’t see what I am doing as being heroic at all. I’m in a position to possibly be helpful to lots of people – that’s an opportunity to grab.

‘Nobody is escaping this virus and what it has done to the way we live.

‘If everybody shied away from helping to find a vaccine, then one might not be found.’

He heard about the trial through his partner Rachel White, who is a nurse researching infectious diseases. Volunteers receive no payment apart from compensation for their time and travel costs ranging from £190 to £625.

Mr Jukes said: ‘The trial isn’t free from risk but, then again, anything worthwhile has risk.’

He will get his injection on Monday and says he will go straight back to work. He stressed: ‘The people involved in the trial are the very best. It is so important as it might be the best chance we have of getting back to some kind of normal life, so I really want to help.’