Hundreds of people in Cornwall needed to take part in new COVID-19 vaccine studies
At least 200 volunteers from Cornwall will 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 research hits more than 2,400 across the county.
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. It is one of a number of COVID-19 vaccine studies due to open to patients in the South West over the coming months.
Dr Duncan Browne, consultant endocrinologist at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust who will lead the study for Cornwall, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer people in Cornwall the opportunity to participate in this important and exciting research. We have all been affected 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 pandemic.”
Nationally 15,000 volunteers will be needed to take part in the study, as the number of people who have signed up to the NHS Vaccine Registry reaches over 300,000.
Calling on some of the thousands of volunteers who have joined the fight against COVID-19 through the Registry, 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 in Cornwall at the Knowledge Spa on the hospital site. The study has also been running in Exeter at the Nightingale Hospital since the end of September.
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.
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.
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 and we’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 with that is by signing up to the NHS Vaccines Registry, so they can be rapidly called.”
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.
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