COVID-19 vaccine trial starts in Southampton

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Southampton’s Professor Saul Faust is leading the UK trial of a new COVID-19 vaccine, aiming to recruit 6,000 volunteers from across the UK.

The vaccine, designed by The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, uses a genetically modified common cold virus to train the immune system.

Why do we need multiple vaccines?

While recent preliminary results showed the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine offered 90% protection, it has not yet been approved for use, and we still do not know how well it works across the population and for how long it protects.

Many types of vaccine are likely to be needed to end the pandemic, with different approaches to creating vaccines being taken to understand what protects different people in different ways, and to offer alternative production and usage methods. Volunteers are still very much needed for vaccine trials to advance as many options as possible.

Prof Saul Faust, director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility and the Chief Investigator leading the trial, said: “Finding an effective vaccine with a good safety profile is a top priority in helping to protect us all more quickly against Covid-19.

“While the news of a potential vaccine is tremendously exciting, our ambition in the scientific community is to ensure we leave no stone unturned in the search for a solution to help end this pandemic.”

What will this trial involve?

The phase 3 trial, co-funded by the UK government’s Vaccine Taskforce, is aiming to recruit 6,000 volunteers in the UK. The study will recruit up to 30,000 people worldwide.

The Janssen vaccine uses a common cold virus that has been genetically modified to make it harmless and to look more like the Sars-CoV2 coronavirus at a molecular level. This should train the immune system to recognise and fight coronavirus.

Half of the volunteers will be given two doses of the vaccine around two months apart, to test safety and effectiveness. Recruitment will end in March 2021 and the study will last for 12 months.

Janssen already has one large scale trial of its vaccine in which volunteers get one dose - this trial will see if two gives a stronger and longer lasting immunity.

If safe and effective, the UK government has agreed in principle for 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine to be made available for the UK.

Southampton is also playing a major role in a phase 3 trial of a vaccine designed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which showed promising early results, as well as earlier phase trials for two other vaccines led by Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge.

Take part

If you would like to take part in COVID-19 vaccine trials in the UK, please sign up to the NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry.

Anyone living in the UK cansign up online to take part in the trials through the NHS, giving permission for researchers to contact you if they think you’re a good fit.  Once you sign up, you can withdraw at any time and request that your details be removed from the COVID-19 vaccine research registry.  The process takes about 5 minutes to complete.

The registry particularly needs volunteers who are most vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, including frontline health and social care workers and people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Posted on Monday 16 November 2020