A north-east woman says taking part in a Covid vaccine trial has left her essentially unable to leave the UK.
Michaela Hernychova was among 430 people across Grampian given two coronavirus jabs developed by US biotech firm Novavax.
The clinical trials have proved successful – with 100% protection against severe illness – but the company is still in the process for getting it approved for widespread use.
While test participants’ vaccination status is being recognised correctly in the UK, many are facing barriers when looking overseas.
Difficulty travelling abroad
This includes 26-year-old Michaela, who works in student recruitment in Aberdeen.
She has a paper certificate from the Novavax trial which can be used for proof of vaccination in the UK, but not internationally.
While participants in England can use a dedicated app for this, a similar scheme for Scotland is still in the works.
As it stands, Michaela will have to self-isolate for five days if she is to travel and visit family in the Czech Republic.
Only people who have received both doses of a pre-approved vaccine are exempt from the rules.
And as she cannot take more than seven days off work at a time, she would be left with “literal hours” to spend with her loved ones.
‘Am I going to be prohibited from leaving?’
Michaela said the situation has left her “stuck between a rock and a hard place”.
“I volunteered as I wanted to help the fight against Covid,” she said, “but I am now unable to travel to see my parents and 85-year-old grandparents, due to my decision to participate.
“Having to isolate away from my family for five days out of my seven-day trip would leave me with literal hours to see them.
“As vaccination becomes more and more accessible to Western countries and starts being required to participate in public life, I worry it will become even harder for me to visit my relatives.
“Should Novavax not be approved soon, am I going to be effectively prohibited from leaving the UK for months and months to come?”
‘Utterly let down’
Michaela said the situation has left her feeling “utterly let down” and “forgotten about.”
“Had I known this was a possibility before enrolling in the trial, I would not have volunteered,” she said.
“If I got my vaccine over the summer like the rest of my age group, I would now be able to go on trips abroad with no issues.”
Last month MSP Douglas Lumsden, who was also on the Novavax trial, claimed participants have been left “disadvantaged” by the system.
‘No-one should be disadvantaged’
In June the UK government’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said it will “make the case internationally that anyone on a Covid-19 vaccine trial should be treated the same in terms of certification as someone who has received a deployed vaccine.”
A government spokesman said it is working with devolved administrations to “ensure a UK-wide approach for clinical trial participants to demonstrate their COVID-19 vaccine status”.
He added: “We are clear that no volunteers in formally approved COVID-19 vaccine trials in the UK should be in any way disadvantaged and we are committed to taking action on this issue.
Novavax said it will “continue to advocate” for clinical trials to be given the same certification as the mainstream Covid jab roll-out.
A spokeswoman said: “With regard to travel, different countries and institutions may have their own requirements with respect to Covid-19 vaccination, testing status and international travel.
“Novavax is now able to reimburse trial participants for PCR testing (up to two tests) that they may need to secure for future travel to comply with the country’s travel requirements.”