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Rapid Recruitment: how a Northamptonshire GP surgery made a COVID-19 vaccine trial a success

Rapid recruitment: how a Northamptonshire GP surgery made a COVID-19 vaccine trial a success

NIHR CRN East Midlands has been supporting the delivery of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine research trial at Lakeside Surgery, Corby. Vaccine Research Project Manager Debbie Samuel tells us about how they delivered the study…

“We were aiming to meet an ambitious recruitment target,” Debbie explains, “and to make sure that we were able to recruit enough participants to help us properly test the effectiveness of the vaccine, we needed to develop a collaborative approach to bring as many people and resources together as possible.”

Debbie began to work on the vaccine study during the middle of recruitment, with Lakeside Surgery one of a number of sites across the UK testing a vaccine candidate developed by Novavax. As recruitment drew to a close, there was a need to increase the pace of recruitment from the local area to meet targets. That meant pursuing tailored approaches to increase opportunities for people to take part.

“Luckily, Lakeside works with a number of partner surgeries,” Debbie says, “which gave us a pool of doctors that we could ask to support us in the delivery of the trial.” At times, this mobilisation meant that as many as ten doctors were delivering vaccinations at the surgery on weekend days. 

The extra doctors meant that more slots could be opened up for appointments so that the surgery could cast a wider net when searching for participants. “This enabled us to use the COVID-19 vaccine research registry to invite people to participate,” Debbie explains, referencing a pool of people who signed up online to indicate that they wanted to support researchers in the development of a vaccine. Contacting people with a stated desire to take part in COVID-19 vaccine research helped to increase the pace of recruitment.

The study also brought together professionals from a number of teams across the CRN East Midlands, including from the Research Support Team (RST) and Primary Care team from neighbouring counties. “Delivering this study was an immediate priority,” Debbie adds, “and we all united as a team who were determined to collaborate to hit our targets as quickly as possible.” Support was also received from local NHS Trusts; Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust, and Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Over a four week period, this additional support enabled the surgery to double recruitment levels to the trial, and proved to be vital in helping the small research team at the surgery to deliver a challenging and time sensitive trial.

Debbie is proud of the role that she played and says that the feedback from patients was extremely positive. She believes that even though the experience was challenging, by working closely together and celebrating milestones throughout it was possible to keep people’s spirits up and drive towards the target.

“It wasn’t always easy,” she says, “but we were all committed to doing whatever we could to make it work. Even when we faced difficult days, we were able to remind each other that we were delivering a vital research study that could save lives, and that gave us the determination to make the trial a success”

Patients involved in the study will have follow-up appointments over the coming weeks and months, and data regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine will be published in due course.

For more information about research into COVID-19, visit: