Friday , October 22 2021

‘I worked so hard in the lab. I cried when the news came about the Covid vaccines’ | Vaccines and immunization


Ф.From an early age, I was fascinated by the natural world, and especially by how living things work. To me, the interaction between organisms, such as between host and pathogen, is fascinating. I have always been interested in translation research – how can what I do on the bench have an impact on the health of the general public?

This feeling has never been more relevant than now. During a pandemic, getting rid of vaccines that can prevent disease is a public health intervention that will contribute to many lives.

Since April, I have been working on the immune response assessment in the Oxford / AstraZeneka ChAdOx1-nCov Vaccine Clinical Trials. In my role as postdoctoral immunologist at the Enner Institute, I have previously worked on clinical trials for epidemic pathogens such as Ebola, Merc-CoV, and influenza. My job involved measuring the antibody responses elicited by these vaccines.

So when the task of conducting immunoassays, more precisely antibody levels, for the Covid-19 vaccine came up, I had the necessary skills to run on the ground. Admittedly, the Covid-19 clinical trial task would be far greater than anything I or any of my colleagues have done before. I am currently leading a laboratory team that is reviewing antibody responses to the vaccine in clinical trial volunteers. We are interested in the level of antibody response to our vaccine antigen – for ChAdOx1-nCov, it is the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein.

We examined the antibody response after one dose of vaccine, and after two doses we saw how these were compared. We also compared antibody responses in different age groups. We now want to monitor the antibody response for several months to determine if our vaccine can elicit a long-lasting immune response.

My work involves much more than doing experiments in a laboratory. Planning, data analysis, logistics (like storing thousands of copies), organizing both laboratory supplies and managing, it all works in one day. Working on this vaccine has put a lot of pressure, including tight turnaround times on laboratory tests to make immunology data available as soon as possible after blood samples have been taken from volunteers.

I worked harder in 2020 than ever before, and I hope more than I have to again! Sometimes the workload becomes frustrating – especially when you think you have completed a task and may be out of breath, but then there is another, often larger, task a moment later.

For me, the best way forward in such situations is to get together as a team and work out how to achieve the ultimate goal using the skills of the individuals in the lab. There have been many ups and downs in the last nine months, but these have been shared among co-workers, many of whom I would never have enjoyed working with had it not been for these trials.

Have I ever wondered, “What if the vaccine doesn’t work?” Of course, these are the kind of thoughts that come to my mind when I need to sleep. However, I had confidence in both the vaccination technology and the team, who work tirelessly towards a common goal. Fortunately, we were rewarded with the news that ChAdOx1-nCoV is effective in preventing Covid-19.

When I heard this, I immediately cried. Tears of relief, joy, hope and excitement for the future of this vaccine. I’m very proud to be part of this vaccine and look forward to how it can benefit people around the world.

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