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Case study: Londoner proud to play his part through research in fightback against COVID-19

Read about Conor's experience of taking part in the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial.

A 30-year-old man has spoken about his pride in aiding the national fightback against COVID-19 by taking part in vaccine research in south London.

Conor is a Research Communications Manager at a medical research charity. Currently working from his home in Wimbledon that he shares with his partner and two cats, he was inspired to take part in a clinical trial of a new vaccine for COVID-19 after hearing about it through the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry.

Led by biotechnology company Novavax, the trial is one of the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s (NIHR) Urgent Public Health portfolio studies, which is also backed by the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce. The trial is taking place at a number of sites, including the NIHR/Wellcome King’s Clinical Research Facility, based at King’s College Hospital, and is being supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network South London.

Initial results of Phase three trials in the UK of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine have found it demonstrated 89.3% efficacy against the virus overall, including 95.6% against the original strain and 85.6% against the newer one. After the company completes the trial, the vaccine will require final approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency before it can be used.

Conor said: “Research is the only way in which we are going to return, as a country, to some semblance of normality and I want to help keep my relatives and the rest of society safe from COVID-19. I have been really impressed with how quickly the vaccines have been developed, but researchers wouldn’t have been able to test any of them without the help of volunteers.

“As part of my work in a medical research charity, I am always telling people about the importance of getting the flu jab every year – so I couldn’t say no to Novavax, here was my chance to be involved in essential research and to help in the national fightback against this awful disease. This was my first time on a clinical trial and I would most certainly volunteer to take part in another one in the future. The research team at King’s College Hospital were just so friendly and professional. I was very impressed by my experience.

“There is still a need for more research into COVID-19 vaccines to help us to tackle this virus – so my message to others is: please sign up to the NHS’s vaccine research registry and get involved in the process.”

Within a week of signing up, the 30-year-old got a telephone call from the hospital team to check his eligibility and to explain in depth how the trial worked. Then on his first visit in October of last year, doctors took the time to discuss why certain measurements, such as blood tests and COVID-19 swabs, were being taken. They again confirmed his eligibility to take part and then gave him his first dose of the vaccine - or placebo: he won’t know which one he received until the trial has finished. After being kept under observation for a short period for any side effects, Conor was sent home with an app to which he could easily upload any reactions or side effects for the following week, although he didn’t experience any.

Conor received his second dose a few weeks later and is now taking part in regular follow-up appointments to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

The NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry is an online service which gives people the chance to register their interest to participate in COVID-19 vaccine research. You can find out more about the registry on the NHS website.