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“Ultimately we all benefit from research” Eastern research volunteer champions COVID vaccine trial

“Ultimately we all benefit from research” Eastern research volunteer champions COVID vaccine trial

Surajit was one of 500 people who recently volunteered to take part in a research trial at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) to test the effectiveness of a new COVID-19 vaccine. He is now raising awareness of the importance of vaccine research and what it is like to take part in it.

After holidaying in Norfolk for many years, Surajit, 57, who is originally from Lancashire, and his wife, Heather, decided to semi-retire to Holt in 2019. Surajit had hoped to find a part time job putting his professional experience in banking and the police to use while enjoying the quiet country life.

However, when the pandemic hit UK shores, Surajit’s work plans had to go on hold. He became increasingly aware of the pressure being placed on NHS staff and decided he wanted to help them instead. He said:

“Everybody wants to try and do their bit, don’t they? Because I have type 2 diabetes and my background is Indian I’m in a slightly higher risk category, so I couldn’t get too close to the frontline, but I really wanted to do something.”

Surajit saw an advert asking for volunteers to join a new COVID-19 vaccine trial that was being launched at NNUH. Having contacted the research team to find out more, Surajit decided this was his chance to do something to help, and he signed up to take part.

Surajit was invited for his first injection appointment at NNUH where he was actually looked after by research staff from the James Paget University Hospital. In a collaborative first for the county, the Novavax trial at NNUH saw clinical research nurses from JPUH and the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) local support team joining the trust’s own research staff in running the study.

Neither staff nor participants know whether they are being given the actual vaccine or a placebo (a harmless fluid which has no active ingredients). However, participants can find this out if they are invited to have one of the approved vaccines currently being rolled out across the country.

Surajit has now received both doses of the Novavax vaccine or placebo: “Apart from a little soreness when I had the two injections, I feel fine. It was a very safe, relaxed environment and the staff were absolutely lovely. I think the only thing I missed was a cup of coffee, but that obviously wasn’t possible!”

“Ultimately, we all benefit from research, so I’m glad I’ve taken part. Hopefully it will benefit mankind, and if the Novavax vaccine is approved for use it would be nice to know that I contributed.”

Dr Helen Macdonald, Chief Operating Officer for the NIHR’s Clinical Research Network in the Eastern region, highlighted the importance of research to find vaccines for COVID-19: “We’re so grateful to Surajit and others who volunteer to take part in research, particularly such important vaccine trials. It’s only with their help, and that of our country’s extremely proficient research community, that we have been able to prove the safety and effectiveness of the COVID vaccines we already have and, hopefully, do the same for the latest ones in development.

If you would like to help researchers test the latest vaccines to be developed for COVID-19, find out more on the NIHR’s website, www.bepartofresearch.uk.