Phase III clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine are set to begin in the UK and will involve 6,000 volunteers from across the country.
Global pharmaceutical company Janssen will begin the trials of its potential vaccine in the UK from today (Monday 16 November). The vaccine is the third potential vaccine to enter into clinical trials in the UK, and the trial, which will last 12 months, is jointly funded by the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce to test its safety and effectiveness.
The study will take place across 17 National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) sites, including Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Leicester, Sheffield, Manchester, Dundee, and Belfast.
A variety of vaccines
A wide range of vaccines need to be available as no one vaccine is likely to be suitable for everyone, experts have warned, urging more people to sign-up to ensure clinical trials that test the safety and effectiveness of potential vaccine candidates continue.
Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, said: “The start of further clinical trials in the UK is yet another step forward in the race to discover a safe and effective vaccine, and comes alongside recent news that we could be on the cusp of the first major breakthrough since the pandemic began. While we are optimistic with the progress being made, there are no guarantees, and it is possible there will be no one-size-fits-all vaccine. That is why it is absolutely vital that while our scientists are cracking on with the job, we continue to follow the guidance to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.”
So far, the Government has developed a portfolio of six different vaccine candidates and has secured access to 350 million doses to date. 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine could be made available to the UK if it is safe and effective by mid-2021.
Professor Saul Faust, Director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility and Chief Investigator for the Janssen Phase 3 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.
“All the vaccines that are being trialled work by generating immune responses to the same part of the coronavirus as the RNA vaccine that has announced some interim early results.”
Black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds
The trial also needs further volunteers who are most vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, such as health and social care workers, and people from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds.
Black, Asian and minority ethnic Clinical Champion at NIHR Clinical Research Network North Thames, and consultant in Sexual Health and HIV at Barts Health NHS Trust, Dr Vanessa Apea, said: “COVID-19 still poses a significant threat to our health and our communities and many of us are still vulnerable to it. One of the ways we can reduce the threat and impact of this disease is a vaccine. The topic of vaccines divides communities. For many, and in particular, Black, Asian, and ethnic minority communities, the word vaccine generates a lot of anxiety, rooted in mistrust, which can understandably lead to reluctance in taking part in a trial.
“We know that these communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and this makes it even more important that any outcomes from research, including new treatments and ways to prevent the disease, work for all communities. Only by doing this can we truly take control of COVID-19, so we really need people from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority communities to sign up to learn more and be part of research. Entering a clinical trial or receiving a vaccine is entirely a personal choice and should always be supported by accurate information.”