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Gerard: ‘We both knew that what we were about to do could change the world’

Tessa Aminetzah

Within 48 hours of the announcement of a new COVID-19 vaccine study in Groningen, more than 2500 people applied to volunteer. Gerard Metselaar counts himself as one of the lucky 60 people that got to participate in the first in-human study: 'I am the living proof that this vaccine is effective. Not many people can say the same and that is pretty special.'

‘At the moment of vaccination there was a clear healthy tension between the physician and me. We both knew that what we were about to do could change the world. At the same time, we were also aware that no one has been given this vaccine before.

With my background in chemistry, I developed many new drug compounds myself. That is why I know that new medicines must withstand rigorous tests and follow strict rules before they can be given to people. That knowledge proved to be right. I did not experience any symptoms except a sore arm. I guess that is comparable to any other vaccine.’

More than an early vaccination.

‘I had various reasons to participate in the vaccine study. In all honesty at the time of applying I was eager to get my vaccine as early as possible. And I did. I was vaccinated way before anyone in my age group. Even though that was a great feeling, I gained most satisfaction from knowing this will help so many other people get closer to their vaccination.

During the study I learned that you could keep this vaccine in a fridge and even four weeks at room temperature. So, this means people can easily distribute it across developing countries and that makes all the free time I invested in the study worthwhile.’

A safe environment.

‘Before the start of the study everyone got a free full health screening. So, when I left the screening, I knew that I was healthy to begin with. A nice bonus. During the study further health checks gave me the feeling that I was in a safe environment. If anything were to happen, I was at the right place. The physicians are open and enthusiastic and could address any concerns.’

Participation.

‘I was always curious to participate in a clinical study. Now I can say that I fully experienced the whole process. I would be willing to participate again if the right study comes along. In the end, the study has to appeal to you. It has to give you the feeling that you are personally committed to make a difference. And yes, the €500 compensation is definitely a nice to have. My wife also participated in the study. Together we will take our family on a weekend trip from the money we received.

It was memorable to go through this whole process together. We joke that normal people go to the movies or eat out with their partner. Instead, my wife and I went on multiple dates to get vaccinated and do PCR tests together. Nothing bonds like seeing a swab been put up the nose of your wife during a COVID test. No, but really we are both happy we could contribute to the development of this vaccine and hope it will do great things for the rest of the world population in the near future.’

Want to make a difference yourself? You can still register to participate in the Phase II trial on the Akston COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Please send an email to ACTstudie@chir.umcg.nl to register or visit the official UMCG information page.

About the AKS-452 vaccine.

The Akston vaccine does not use any part of the COVID-19 virus. It is not an mRNA vaccine. It also does also not use another virus to combat COVID-19. Because this type of vaccine does not include any genetic material of the virus, it is impossible that the virus multiplies in the body. The results of the Phase I study are very successful.


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