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Novavax COVID vaccine volunteer recommends clinical trials to friends!

An Exeter man who joined a clinical trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine after his Grandson recovered from being seriously ill with COVID has said he was delighted with the successful outcome of the trials, and has suggested to his friends that they should volunteer in future.

John Burden decided he wanted to join the trial at the NIHR Patient Recruitment Centre Exeter (PRC Exeter) when his grandson was treated in the RD&E and Brompton hospitals last year, after contracting COVID in March.

“My grandson was very ill indeed, and was very close to death. It gave me an added reason to want to try to help.

“I thought maybe I could contribute something. There seemed to be a shortage of older people among the volunteers for the trial.”

The Novavax study is the largest ever double blind, placebo-controlled trial to be undertaken in the UK. It recruited over 15,000 participants from 35 research UK sites in just over two months. It was the first phase 3 study for the US-based biotechnology firm Novavax’s vaccine anywhere in the world. The trials show the vaccine is up to 89.3% effective, and if approved for use this would be a hugely important addition to the world’s armoury against COVID.

John explains, “I attended for three visits which took less than 3 hours in total. After a general assessment I was given my first jab, and then a second one later followed by a check-up.

“I’ve since found out I was given the placebos – we needed to ‘unblind’ my results after I was called to receive a vaccine at my GP’s surgery as part of the national vaccination programme!

“The staff were brilliant, and I’m delighted that I was able to help in the development of another successful vaccine. I would be more than happy to continue with the trial, and I have suggested to my friends that they should take part in future clinical trials here at the Exeter PRC.”

Over 500 volunteers participated locally in the trial run by PRC Exeter, one of five regionally based centres dedicated to setting up and delivering large, late-phase commercial clinical trials across the NHS.

The study in Devon was conducted at the Nightingale Hospital Exeter site, prior to it receiving inpatients with COVID, and then at the PRC Exeter, at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital. In addition to research teams at the RD&E, the clinical trial has been supported by staff across the region from the NIHR Clinical Research Network, the Clinical Research Facility, the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth and the local GP community.