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First global participants recruited into COVID-19 vaccine booster study

Published: 03 June 2021

Volunteers in a world-first COVID-19 vaccine booster study have received their first booster jabs in Bradford.

As part of the NIHR-supported Cov-Boost study, unveiled by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock in May, over 2,800 participants are being recruited to help to provide vital data on the impact of a third dose on patients’ immune responses.

Professor Alex Brown, who is a Consultant Physician in Elderly Medicine and the Deputy Medical Director at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was one of the first study participants in the world to receive a third dose at the Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR), based at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

16 study sites supported by the NIHR, across the UK, are involved in the study, which is backed by £19.3 million of government funding through the Vaccines Taskforce.

Seven different vaccines are being trialled and this will be the first study in the world to provide vital data on the impact of a third dose on patients’ immune responses.

It will give scientists from around the globe and the experts behind the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme a better idea of the impact of a booster dose of each vaccine in protecting individuals from the virus.

Professor Dinesh Saralaya, Principal Investigator of the trial at Bradford and NIHR National Patient Recruitment Centre Bradford Director, said:

“We are very excited to be the first study site to launch this very important trial. We are on target to recruit a total of 148 participants in Bradford, all of whom will play a vital role in helping us discover how the various COVID vaccines work with one another so that we can be well prepared in the autumn when people are offered booster vaccinations.

“As we know, vaccines are the only way out of this pandemic and research is vital in the hope of us getting back to normal.”

Prof Brown said: “The COVID virus is not going to go away, it will always be there in the background and so it’s vital that we are protected from it so that another pandemic cannot take hold. That’s why vaccines are so important, and that’s why I agreed to take part in this trial to find out how the various vaccines work with one another and the level of protection they give us so that we are well prepared when boosters are needed.

“I know from personal experience how serious COVID is. I ended up in A&E. I haven't known anything like it. I've been in some of the toughest situations imaginable but nothing like this.

“When Prof Saralaya asked me to take part, I said yes straightaway. I didn’t realise though that Bradford would be the first study site to go live but this is testament to the hard-working research team at the hospital and to the city of Bradford. It makes me very proud.”

The initial findings, expected in September, will help inform decisions by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on plans for a booster programme from autumn this year, ensuring the country’s most vulnerable are given the strongest possible protection over the winter period.

The trial will look at seven different COVID-19 vaccines as potential boosters, given at least 10 to 12 weeks after a second dose as part of the ongoing vaccination programme. One booster will be provided to each volunteer and could be a different brand to the one they were originally vaccinated with. Vaccines being trialled include Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, Valneva, Janssen and Curevac, as well as a control group.

Participants will be adults aged 30 years or older and will include those immunised early on in the vaccination programme - for example, adults aged 75 and over or health and care workers.

Professor Andrew Ustianowski, National Clinical Lead for the UK NIHR COVID Vaccine Research Programme said:

"Healthcare staff have played a pivotal role in each of the COVID-19 vaccine studies throughout the pandemic, and with the Cov-Boost study that is no different. It is great to see Professor Brown lead by example and volunteer for this trial which could influence future vaccine booster plans.

“Recruitment to this study across the UK is key to give us a better understanding of the effects of booster doses for several vaccines, and learn how we can protect more individuals from the virus.”

All participants will be monitored throughout the study for any potential side effects and will have bloods taken to measure their immune responses. All sites have an electronic diary for all participants that sends alerts to the team in real time if needed and a 24-hour emergency phone to a doctor on the study, who can provide further clinical advice.

The study is recruiting participants through the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry, which members of the public can still join to find out more about taking part in important vaccine studies. You can also find out more by visiting the study website.

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