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Putting Covid vaccines to the test

Cape Town - He is a chartered accountant by trade and captures the sports world through a lens and now he’s made himself available to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Peter Heeger recently volunteered for the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine trial.

It started last year, when he took pictures at a match between South Africa and England at the Over-50s Cricket World Cup. Heeger was sitting next to the England team, felt sick and decided to visit his doctor, who told him to test himself for Covid-19. However, the result came back negative and it turned out to be an allergy problem.

The Elfindale resident then asked his doctor: “How would we get rid of the virus?“

“He said our only way is a vaccine. I then started to track vaccine development on Twitter as I had previously been involved in a trial for hay fever. It was initially at Groote Schuur Hospital (but) moved to the Lung Institute at UCT. I found the execution highly professional and the checks were thorough. In consideration, when I agreed to participate in a Covid-19 trial that was foremost in my memory coupled by a statement by my doctor who said a vaccine was the only solution. Also if we all sat back and waited for a solution, we would all be drowning,” he said.

Heeger then tried to join the Oxford/AstraZeneca trials at UCT but due to diary issues he was too late. He then wanted to try Pfizer but the trial was closed, however, this did not stop him. He then saw a post on Twitter calling for over-60s to join the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine trial. He found the website and completed the online form on a Friday evening in December last year.

“The return address was in Seattle in the US. The next morning I had a response in my inbox saying a local representative would call me. It was Saturday at noon, a sister at the local site called and asked me to come in for an assessment the next Monday or Tuesday. I chose Tuesday. On arrival, I had a high blood pressure test and temperature check. Later I saw a sister who explained the contractual relationship and (said) I can exit any time. I was then interviewed by a doctor, who went through my medication and said she would recommend me on the randomised trial. I then had a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test after which I was given access to a diary to be completed daily. I had blood taken and was then given an injection. Not sure if I received the actual vaccine or the placebo. There is 50% chance.”

Some of the side-effects Heeger had included: fatigue, lack of appetite, a mild headache, a mildly high temperature and a cough while his sinus opened up.

The trial is over two years and Heeger will go for follow-ups on a regular basis.

“Bloods are taken to see if I have built up immunity, I assume, and if I received the vaccine. If we want to go to some normal then I think the vaccine is the only mitigation solution currently. A year ago my doctor told me so. He is correct. There is no other solution at the moment. But every South African must make a decision,” he added.

Weekend Argus

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