Hundreds of people in South West needed to take part in new COVID-19 vaccine study

Nightingale Hospital, Exeter
Nightingale Hospital, Exeter

Hundreds of volunteers from the South West will from today be invited to join a leading phase three COVID-19 vaccine study, as the number of people who have signed up to take part in vaccine research hits 9,220 across Devon, Cornwall and parts of Somerset.

The study will test the safety and effectiveness of a promising new vaccine, developed by US biotechnology company Novavax, across a broad spectrum of people, including those from a variety of age groups and backgrounds. Phase 3 studies involve many thousands of people, giving researchers insights into the effects of a vaccine on a much larger population than phase 1 and 2 studies.

Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust’s NIHR Patient Recruitment Centre will use the Exeter Nightingale Hospital to deliver the study locally.

Dr Thomas Burden, Vaccine Lead for the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula and Respiratory Consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer people in the South West the opportunity to participate in this important and exciting research. We have all been effected by Covid 19 in differing ways and we look forward to contributing towards what we hope will be an effective vaccine to enable recovery from this devastating epidemic.”

Nationally 10,000 volunteers will be needed to take part in the study, as the number of people who have signed up to the NHS Vaccine Registry hits 250,000.

Thousands of volunteers have joined the fight against Covid-19 by signing up to the NHS Vaccine Research Registry. The Registry was launched in July to help create a database of people who consent to be contacted by the NHS to take part in clinical studies, to help speed up the development of a safe and effective vaccine.

The phase three trials are the second to commence in the UK and will be undertaken at a number of National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) regional sites across the UK, including Exeter.

With several more studies for potential vaccine candidates expected to start before the end of the year, UK researchers are calling for additional volunteers to sign up to take part in research. To better understand the effectiveness of vaccine candidates and help find a vaccine that works for as many people as soon as possible, researchers are particularly seeking more volunteers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds as well as those with underlying health conditions and the over 65s.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “We are fighting coronavirus with all our might and we all have our part to play. One of the most effective ways we can defeat coronavirus is by finding a safe successful vaccine as quickly as possible, so that our lives can start returning to normal.

“I am incredibly proud of the 250,000 invaluable volunteers who have signed up for vaccine clinical studies across the UK. We want even more people to join them and sign up to the Vaccines Registry, so that scientists and researchers can make sure potential vaccines are completely safe and effective.”

The government has secured 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine for the UK, which will be manufactured using FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’s facilities in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees. This will ensure that, once approved by regulators, the vaccine can be supplied as quickly as possible.

Professor Paul Heath, Novavax Phase 3 trial Chief Investigator and Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:

“This is only the second Phase 3 vaccine study to be initiated in the UK, and the first Phase 3 study with the Novavax vaccine anywhere in the world, which shows the importance that has been placed on rapidly finding a solution for this urgent public health need. The vaccine has successfully gone through its early safety trials andwe’re extremely encouraged by its performance so far.

“The NHS Vaccines Registry has been key in helping us quickly identify participants who fulfil the inclusion criteria for this study – particularly those from among groups most likely to benefit from a vaccine, such as the elderly.”

Chair of the government’s Vaccines Taskforce Kate Bingham said: “Finding a safe and effective vaccine that works for the majority of the UK population is the best way to tackle this devastating disease. Whilst social distancing, testing and other measures can help reduce the impact of coronavirus, the only long-term solution to beating it will be finding a vaccine. One of the ways people can help withthat is by signing up to the NHS Vaccines Registry, so they can be rapidly called.”

Gregory M. Glenn, M.D., President of Research & Development at Novavax said: “Today marks an important and exciting advance in addressing the global COVID-19 pandemic in Europe and around the world. We are confident in the safety of this vaccine and based on the successful phase 3 clinical trial of our influenza vaccine built using the same platform, we are optimistic that NVX-CoV2373 will prove to be effective at preventing infection and reducing the transmission of the disease.”

If any of the vaccines are successful in clinical studies, they could start to be delivered to the UK in 2021. It is expected that these vaccines would first be given to priority groups such as frontline health and social care workers, ethnic minorities, adults with underlying health conditions, and the elderly based on JCVI advice.

In August this year, the UK government and Valneva made a multi-million-pound joint investment in a vaccine manufacturing facility in Livingston, West Lothian, which will be at the heart of efforts to produce a new Covid-19 vaccine. This is in addition to the new Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), currently under construction in Oxfordshire, and the new vaccine manufacturing plant in Braintree, Essex recently acquired by the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult.

The UK public can support the national effort to speed up vaccine research and receive more information about volunteering for clinical studies by visiting www.nhs.uk/researchcontact.

The Exeter Daily