Sask. expat in U.K. taking part in human trial of COVID-19 vaccine

Tiffany Cassidy is on the front lines against the pandemic after volunteering to take part in a human trial of a promising COVID-19 vaccine developed by scientists in Oxford.

Oxford University vaccine said to be promising

Tiffany Cassidy, who works as a freelance journalist in the U.K., takes her temperature as part of a human trial of a promising coronavirus vaccine developed by scientists in Oxford. (Supplied by Tiffany Cassidy)

Tiffany Cassidy, a Saskatchewan-expat journalist living in the U.K., was feeling ill-equipped to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.  

That changed when she spotted an ad asking for volunteers.  

Cassidy is now on the front lines, taking part in a human trial of a promising coronavirus vaccine developed by scientists in Oxford. 

"This seems like a very tangible thing that I could participate in," she said.

The first step for Cassidy was a screening appointment and a battery of medical tests to make sure that she was healthy enough to be a part of the trial. She passed with flying colours and was cleared to receive her shot. 

She doesn't know if she received the actual vaccine or a placebo. Either way, she is documenting the effects. 

"I need to record my temperature every evening and I write my symptoms in a little e-diary and let them know how I'm doing so that they know how well this vaccine is performing," she said.

So far, so good

So far Cassidy has had no side effects to report, but the trial is not without risks. She said that the biggest one is the possibility that if the vaccine proves ineffective and she does contract COVID-19, the symptoms could be more severe.

I do actually hope I got the vaccine.- Tiffany Cassidy

The trial raises ethical questions around how best to test the vaccine's effectiveness. Are people involved in the trial expected to let their guards down? Wash their hands less often? After all, it's difficult to analyze the effectiveness of a potential vaccine unless some of the people involved in trials are exposed to the virus.

"They're ethically not allowed to intentionally infect us," Cassidy said. 

So while the researchers will need some participants in the human trial to contract COVID-19 so in order to understand just how effective the vaccine is, they will have to rely on the natural spread of the virus out in the community.

Right now it's unclear exactly how long the Oxford vaccine trials will go on. Cassidy said the earliest it might wrap up would be the fall. When it is complete, she and the other participants will be advised whether they've received the vaccine or the placebo. 

Cassidy has her fingers crossed. 

"I do actually hope that I got the vaccine," she said. "It could theoretically mean that I could more easily fly to Saskatchewan and visit my family or have more access to things in other countries."

with files from Saskatoon Morning