Vaccine trial volunteers say they’re being punished by COVID passport schemes
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 20/08/2021
Callum Heald’s wedding in France has been meticulously planned.
He is set to marry his French fiancé Margot in a chateau near the Chartreuse Mountains in late September.
Organising a wedding always has the potential to be stressful, particularly when that wedding is taking place abroad during a pandemic.
But the couple is dealing with the added stress of his vaccination status – or lack of it.
Mr Heald is part of a clinical trial for the Valneva jab, which is not currently approved.
Study participants like him should be able to get COVID passes in the UK, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated with a licensed product or received a placebo.
But the French authorities do not recognise Valneva because it is not approved by the European Medicines Agency.
So Mr Heald will have to quarantine for seven days after arriving in France and pay for extra tests.
“The main issue I have with France is that [when] going to restaurants you need to have a pass now,” he says.
“Even my wedding venue has already asked us to provide passports on the French app to prove that we’ve had two vaccines or we’ve had a test.”
He does not regret taking part in the trial, but he does feel that he should not be disadvantaged after taking risks to help others.
“The overwhelming reason for me personally doing this trial was to get another drug out there for the world,” he says.
“It’s not surprising, with everything that’s gone on with the whole COVID situation that this has happened, but I’m disappointed.”
Mr Heald could have been vaccinated again, through the NHS, with a jab that has been approved in the UK and in Europe, but he does not want to interfere with the research.
“I’d be taken off the trial,” he says. “It would completely miss the point of why I did the trial, which was to help others.”
Professor Adam Finn is the chief investigator for the Valneva experiments.
He worries if too many participants abandon studies by seeking out NHS jabs, then the research could fail.
“Most participants are kind of grinning and bearing it,” he says.
“But there are clearly people who really do need to travel and others who just really want to and feel like nobody really told them that this might be a problem.
“I think we have to respect that.”
He says the risks from mixing trial and approved vaccines are small but still untested.
Melanie Seaton was given an experimental dose of the Novavax jab, which has not yet been approved.
She is reluctant to seek additional vaccination outside of the programme because she worries it would not be safe.
But she has not been able to get even a domestic COVID pass through the NHS app.
Ms Seaton is concerned that soon she will not be able to get into nightclubs after the prime minister warned COVID passports will be needed for entry.
“I like to go to a lot of live music events, obviously some of those are in clubs,” she says.
“So if they start requiring vaccinations then I won’t be able to attend those.
“I don’t think I should get any kind of special treatment for being in the trial but I should at least be treated the same as everyone else who’s had a jab.”
Ms Seaton wants to visit a yoga retreat in Ibiza this summer, but her trip is looking unlikely.
She will not have time to get two approved jabs in the next month, which is when she had hoped to travel.
So she would need to take extra tests which would cost over £200.
Novavax says trial participants can seek compensation for the costs of additional testing and are in the process of informing those who have taken part in studies.
Like Mr Heald, Ms Seaton still does not regret receiving an experimental vaccine.
She hopes her sacrifices and her contribution to medical research will help save many lives in the future.
© Sky News 2020