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Elizabeth and John from Barnard Castle go #Red4Research

Today (Friday 18 June) we are going #Red4Research

Research couldn’t happen without volunteers, participants and research teams. People like John and Elizabeth Ashworth make research happen. Over the last year we have all gained more appreciation for those involved in COVID-19 research across the globe.

The research community, in collaboration with the health and care sectors and voluntary organisations, have achieved a phenomenal amount since the pandemic began.

#Red4Research Day aims to get as many people as possible wearing red to demonstrate their support and appreciation for all those participating, undertaking and supporting COVID-19 research.

Elizabeth and John have a lot of community spirit, are both involved in their local cricket club, keen gardeners and enjoy walking in Teesdale and the North East. They have shared their story after they participated in the Novavax COVID vaccine study, which tested the safety and efficacy of a new vaccine for Covid-19 developed by Novavax, a US biotechnology company.  

The Novavax study is the largest ever double blind, placebo-controlled trial to be undertaken in the UK. In a double blind trial, both the people taking part and the research staff do not know which people had the placebo and which got the experimental treatment, in this case the vaccine candidate. 

The Novavax study recruited over 15,000 participants from 35 research UK sites; including 532 from the Durham Tees Valley area, in just over two months. The study was a phase three study, which involves many thousands of people and gives research an insight into the effects of vaccination on a much larger population than phase one and two studies.

The married couple from Barnard Castle, County Durham, read about the study in their local paper and signed up the the national vaccine research registry.

John said: “We both worked in the pharmaceutical industry so we are very keen to support industry research into COVID. When we saw an article in our local paper we both decided it would be great to be involved.”

After attending the initial pre-screening appointment, Elizabeth and John were both accepted onto the study and received two doses of either the active vaccine or the placebo. 

Two months after participating, John received a call from his local GP surgery as he was eligible to have an MHRA-approved vaccine via the national vaccine roll out.

John said: “I contacted the study team to find out if I had been given the placebo or Novavax - it turned out I had received the vaccine candidate, Novavax, so I didn’t need the MHRA approved vaccine. At the time there was talk of a crossover trial, but there was no time scale. I made the right decision when I asked to find out and become unblinded.”

Elizabeth, who is two years younger than John, was not eligible for the national vaccine roll out at the same time as John, but when she became eligible a few weeks later she contacted the study team and was invited to take part in a new arm of the Novavax study. 

The new arm meant all participants would receive another two vaccinations, and while remaining blinded they would be given the opposite dose to their first vaccine, so if they had the placebo the first time they would receive the vaccine candidate the second time or vice versa.

Elizabeth said: “I had absolutely no worries or qualms about it, I knew for a vaccine to have got to this stage it must have a very good safety profile and I was pleased to know the new arm of the study meant I would definitely be receiving the Novavax vaccine.”

“The whole process of taking part in the study was managed extremely well, all the staff at the University Hospital of Hartlepool were great. It was a very slick operation; there were no queues and appointment times ran seamlessly.”

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is 89.3% effective at preventing COVID-19, shown from interim analysis of its phase three study data.The study tested the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine across a broad spectrum of people, including those from a variety of age groups and backgrounds. 

If approved the UK has secured 60 million doses, with manufacturing set to take place in Billingham, Teesside.

If you want to find out more about health research and opportunities to participate, visit: www.bepartofresearch.nihr.ac.uk 

Wear red and share your photo with us by using hashtag #Red4Research and #ResearchNENC