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COVID-19 update 30 March: Healthy volunteers sought for vaccine study

COVID-19 update 30 March: Healthy volunteers sought for vaccine study

Healthy people in Thames Valley are being sought to volunteer for an Oxford University vaccine study into COVID-19.

Healthy people aged 18 to 55 can register their interest online to go through a screening process to assess if they are suitable.

The vaccine is in production but will not be ready for some weeks. Up to 510 people will receive the vaccine or a control ‘dummy’ injection so the two can be compared.

The trial will provide valuable information on the safety aspects of the vaccine, as well as its ability to generate an immune response against the virus.  

It is a collaboration between the university’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group and is supported by the National Institute for Health Research.

Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute, said: “The Oxford team had exceptional experience of a rapid vaccine response, such as to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. 

“This is an even greater challenge. Vaccines are being designed from scratch and progressed at an unprecedented rate. The upcoming trial will be critical for assessing the feasibility of vaccination against COVID-19 and could lead to early deployment.”

Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator on the study, said: “Starting the clinical trials is the first step in the efforts to find out whether the new vaccine being developed at Oxford University works and could safely play a central role in controlling the pandemic coronavirus that is sweeping the globe.”

The vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine vector and was chosen as it can generate a strong immune response from one dose and it is not a replicating virus, so it cannot cause an ongoing infection in the vaccinated individual. This also makes it safer to give to children, the elderly and anyone with a pre-existing condition such as diabetes. 

Adenoviral vectors are a very well-studied vaccine type, having been used safely in thousands of subjects, from 1 week to 90 years of age, in vaccines targeting over 10 different diseases.  

Coronaviruses have club-shaped spikes on their outer coats. Immune responses from other coronavirus studies suggest that these are a good target for a vaccine. 

The Oxford vaccine contains the genetic sequence of this surface spike protein inside the ChAdOx1 construct. After vaccination, the surface spike protein of the coronavirus is produced, which primes the immune system to attack the coronavirus if it later infects the body. 

The trial team previously developed a vaccine for another human coronavirus disease, which is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and this has shown promise in early clinical trials.

For more information visit the University of Oxford website.