Published: 02 June 2021
Over 500,000 people have now signed up to be contacted about hearing how to be involved in COVID-19 vaccine studies. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock MP announced the milestone at the Downing Street Press Conference on 27 May.
Set up in July 2020, the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry has helped thousands of people to be recruited into vital COVID-19 vaccine studies throughout the pandemic, and contributed to the 39,000 volunteers who have since agreed to take part in the UK.
It is thanks to the selflessness of those who were willing to take part in vaccine studies that there are a number of safe and effective vaccines available for the UK population and across the world. Without the willingness of volunteers, the vaccine research registry could not have worked.
Supporting 10 vital vaccine studies so far, the registry has people registered from across the UK and has helped research staff to be put in contact with potential study volunteers. Studies are continuing into new vaccines, vaccines for special groups such as pregnant women, booster vaccines, optimum vaccine schedules and vaccines alongside seasonal flu vaccines.
The service was commissioned as part of the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce in conjunction with the NIHR, NHS Digital and the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Governments.
By building a large bank of interested members of the public, the registry has enabled several studies of the ability to reach their recruitment target in weeks rather than months or even years. It has also helped make the UK a destination for COVID-19 vaccine research for companies from across the world, putting the UK at the forefront of development of the vaccines and early access to them.
A NHS Digital dashboard has helped research staff and members of the public gain a clear picture of those making up the registry, including location, ethnicity and age.
John Nother, NIHR Chief Digital Officer, said:
“When the pandemic started, we thought how can we use digital technology and the massive amount of goodwill and public spirit amongst people in the UK to help? The NHS Vaccine Research Registry was a way to support the key trials to get underway fast. The system has enabled researchers to quickly identify and match suitable and willing volunteers to the right vaccine trials. It also puts the volunteer in control, so that they get to hear about studies directly and choose which they want to sign up for.”
William van’t Hoff, NIHR Clinical Research Network Chief Executive Officer, said:
"The registry is a testament to great collaboration with many partners. Our public's willingness to sign up their interest in trials has made a huge difference in speeding up the studies, helping study teams across the UK to quickly link people to research.
“On behalf of the NIHR, I’d like to really thank each of the half a million people who have signed up, together they have made a major contribution to developing COVID-19 vaccines to tackle the pandemic."
The service, which continues to run and helps support recruitment to COVID-19 vaccine studies, is available to anyone aged 18 or over, living in the UK. To register, people fill in some personal and contact details, and answer a series of basic health screening questions on an NHS.UK website form. The service is highly secure, with personal data and permissions held in a NHS system managed by NHS Digital, the national organisation responsible for IT in the health and social care system.
More Ways to Be Part of Research
Those interested in taking part in research and hearing more about study opportunities and news are encouraged to do so by visiting the Be Part of Research website. You can also visit the NIHR website to find out more about their response to COVID-19. The interest and engagement in the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry from the public and potential volunteers has demonstrated the UK’s willingness to help find treatments and vaccines for the disease.
By creating and learning how to empower a research engaged population, it is hoped the momentum behind COVID-19 research can be shared across common disease areas and help accelerate research into cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, dementia and more.