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Oxford vaccine volunteer Pons: "Early doses should be ready for Christmas"

AS spoke to Joan Pons, a Spanish medic based in the UK who participated as a volunteer in tests for the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine.

Oxford vaccine volunteer Pons: "Early doses should be ready for Christmas"

Spanish medic Joan Pons Laplana moved to the United Kingdom some years ago and currently works in a Sheffield hospital.

With his family now established in the UK, the Barcelona native decided to present himself as a a volunteer earlier this year as part of the vaccine tests being conducted by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. AS talked to the 45-year-old who explained his motives for applying as a volunteer.  

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- How does one go about applying to volunteer for vaccine testing and what are the basic requirements? 

Oxford University communicated with all UK hospitals looking for volunteers to come forward for phase 3 testing and were specifically looking for doctors and nurses on the front line who were dealing with covid patients. Phase 3 is all about the efficiency of the vaccine. The requirements were being aged between 18 and 55 and having no previous serious injuries and having never generated antibodies against covid-19.

- How does the vaccine work on the body?

The virus can linger in the air and our battle is to ensure it doesn't invade the body. What the vaccine does is create a 'protective army' ready to detect when the virus aims to harm the lungs. The vaccine attacks the virus and ensures it can't replicate.

This army of white blood cells surround the virus attacking it and ensure that further symptoms don't materialise.

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- How many people need to be vaccinated in a society?

This is a key issue and I'd estimate for full immunity in a society, we'd need to ensure that approximately 70% are vaccinated. That includes people, of all ages, not just elderly people or those who are chronically ill but everyone.

We've also seen that those who have had the virus generate antibodies, but these are only temporary so it's imperative that those individuals are also vaccinated.

- When do you see a major roll-out of the vaccine?

Oxford University has already requested approval for the vaccine via the EMA (European Medicines Agency) which indicates that we're in the final stages of the process and I'd anticipate early doses of the vaccine to be available before Christmas.

- How will early doses be administered?   

The first to be vaccinated will be heath workers dealing on the frontline with coronavirus patients and then those over 55 will have priority and I'd anticipate other members of society being able to receive the vaccine ahead of the summer next year.

We're probably looking at a period of nine months to vaccinate everyone and the key is to get to 70% of the population but am not sure we'll achieve that until the end of 2021.

Joan Pons en el Hospital de Sheffield.
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Joan Pons en el Hospital de Sheffield.

- From your professional perspective and also as a volunteer, where have society slipped up with their response to the virus?

Many sadly, have not taken the pandemic seriously with many people feeling they are totally immune. We all need to maintain our daily routine of keeping distance, wearing masks and not take unnecessary as we've seen that no age group are immune to the virus.