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Why I’m supporting the Melody study into Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness

09 December 2021

Jim Hayton lost his sister Elaine to Covid-19 in August this year. Like Jim, Elaine was living with a long-term kidney transplant; like Jim, Elaine had promptly taken up her first two vaccinations.  

Elaine was 57 and lived a full and active life as a supportive mum, a loving sister and partner, a wonderful colleague and determined fundraiser. 

“Elaine was the only girl in a family of five children and so growing up she was the apple of everyone’s eye and spoiled by the rest of us,” says Jim. “We miss her terribly, she was the heart and soul of our family, the one who always remembered birthdays and reminded people about anniversaries. If I had a problem, I always knew she’d be on the phone for a chat.” 

Elaine tested positive for Covid-19 in early July 2021 and, following hospital admission and mechanical ventilation, passed away just a few weeks later.  

Elaine Sherlock and her brother Jim Hayton
Jim Hayton and sister, Elaine Sherlock.

Jim says: “Elaine became seriously unwell with Covid-19 very quickly and her family were unable to visit her in hospital. When she passed away it was as if she had just been snatched from us. One moment she was a fit person living with a successful kidney transplant, diligently doing her “10,000 steps” daily. Next she was gone, and it’s hard to imagine she won’t be a part of our lives any more.”

Kidney disease in the family

Kidney disease is hugely prevalent in Jim’s family. Nine family members have had transplants in the last 40 years, with three still surviving. Sadly, having lost Elaine, only a few weeks later her kidney transplanted cousin living in California also contracted Covid, and passed away shortly afterwards in almost identical circumstances to Elaine, doubling the family’s sorrow.

Desperate for research to help

Grieving and anxious, Jim is understandably desperate for research to offer the rest of his loved ones more protection.

He says: “The success of the UK vaccination programme on the general population has been remarkable. However, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the impact of Covid vaccines on immune suppressed people such as transplant recipients is much less well understood. Although my sister Elaine was advised by the NHS that she was safe to return to work, use public transport and so on, it seems very likely that after two vaccine shots she had not developed sufficient antibodies to combat Covid when she became infected.”

Jim believes that many transplant recipients remain fearful and vulnerable, effectively continuing to shield at home as in the early stages of the pandemic

New research study; Melody

He’s relieved to hear Kidney Research UK is supporting the recently launched Melody study, investigating how well immunocompromised people are responding to Covid-19 vaccinations. It is hoped the study will identify patients who are still vulnerable to Covid-19 to allow healthcare professionals to highlight those patients who may benefit from new preventative treatments.

“We just don’t know if the third or fourth dose is helping protect us any better.”

“I’m glad the Melody study is going ahead and I hope the information it produces can help prevent more families going through what we have.

“As a dedicated fundraiser for and supporter of kidney research, I know Elaine would be delighted to see Kidney Research UK support this vital piece of work.”

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