Ruth Atkins was the first UK volunteer to receive a new Ebola vaccine in a clinical trial conducted by the Jenner Institute in Oxford. Ruth, who is 49, lives in Marcham near Abingdon and has two teenage children. She now works as Assistant Head for Strategic Communications and Engagement for NHS South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit - supporting Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group, and was previously an NHS nurse for 31 years.
We spoke to Ruth to find out what motivated her to take part in the trial and how she feels about it one year on.
Tom Rawlinson is a doctor working towards a career as an academic clinician in the field of tropical infectious diseases. His medical background is diverse, ranging from single-handed General Practice on Hebridean Islands to treating a wide variety of tropical diseases in South America, Africa and Asia. In June 2015 he received the Ebola Medal for Service in West Africa awarded by the UK government. He is currently a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow and DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford, working on a vaccine against P. vivax malaria.
We asked Tom what it was like to work with Ebola patients first-hand.
Vaccine development may not be as physically demanding as Le Mans, the Marathon des Sables and the Vendee Globe, but to keep plugging away for twenty years surely requires mental resilience. For these endurance races, the finish line is known, fixed; for vaccines, new data may move the finish line at any time. Imagine getting halfway round the world to discover that not only has the end moved two hundred miles further away, but you’re heading in the wrong direction…
Tom Calver decided to ask three Oxford scientists with a wealth of vaccine knowledge about what they did and why they kept doing it.