Before I signed up as a guinea pig for the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine last year, I asked what would happen when it was my turn to have an authorised vaccination. All would be well, said the government and the researchers: I would be looked after.
This week, those assurances sound very hollow. Other people in their 70s can get a vaccine passport, but I may not be able to. And I do not know how long I am protected for.
My turn for an authorised jab came up in January and, as promised, the researchers “unblinded” me and told me that I had had the live trial vaccine in my body, not the placebo. Government advice was that it might be unsafe to put another vaccine into my body.
The researchers were keen for me to stay in the study, and assured me that Novavax was expected to become an approved vaccine in April, or May at the latest, after which time I would go on the national vaccine register and could have a vaccine passport just like those who had been vaccinated in the normal way.
So, with many misgivings, I turned down the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine I was offered, and tried not to worry as I heard nothing about Novavax applying for approval.
Alarm bells began to ring last week when an email arrived from a researcher on the team to say Novavax would not be seeking MHRA approval until later in the year.
She said doctors could still input the dates when I had the Novavax vaccine into their records, but I was told: “The record asks for expiry date and batch number – neither of which the GP has; however those fields are not mandatory and can be left blank. The records only show that you have been vaccinated and do not specify vaccine brand name … Unfortunately this is a GP-only system so we cannot do this for you and your GP will need to update records. Please get your GP to contact us if they are uncertain about this process.”
Frantic calls to my GP practice on Wednesday established that they are willing to do it, but even if they manage it, I still have a vaccine that is almost six months old with no talk of a booster, and a vaccine passport that may not be accepted because it’s not an approved vaccine.
And I’m one of the lucky ones. What about those on the trial whose GPs don’t have the relevant system or aren’t uploading information for unauthorised vaccines?
What about those who had their trial vaccines back in April and May last year, like a Guardian reader who contacted me after an earlier piece I wrote on this subject? He has not yet been offered a booster, but the vaccine in his body may already be expiring or out of date.
“If people vaccinated this year are found to need a third dose within the same year, we will have been left a much longer time,” he said. “It’s of particular concern as I spend time caring for elderly relatives, one on the shielding list.”