Over 100,000 people have so far volunteered to take part in COVID-19 vaccine trials, helping to speed up efforts to discover a safe and effective vaccine.
The government is encouraging more people to join the thousands of volunteers and sign up to the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry to help the NHS in the fight against coronavirus and ensure potential candidates work for everyone.
To enable large-scale vaccine studies to take place across the UK, they say the aim is to get as many people as possible signed up to the Registry by October.
Researchers particularly welcome people from all parts of society, especially those who are more likely to benefit from a vaccine, including the over 65s, frontline health and social care workers, and those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
It is thought clinical studies with a diverse pool of volunteers will help scientists and researchers better understand the effectiveness of each vaccine candidate and will considerably speed up efforts to discover a safe and workable vaccine.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma says: “From John O’Groats to Land’s End, everyone has played their part in tackling coronavirus from wearing face coverings to following social distancing guidance.
“Scientists and researchers are working day and night to find a vaccine that meets the UK’s rigorous regulatory and safety standards, but they need hundreds of thousands of people of all backgrounds and ages to sign-up for studies to speed up this vital research.
“I urge everyone to play our part in the fight against coronavirus and join the 100,000 people who have already registered, so we can help save and protect millions of lives.”
Chair of the government’s Vaccines Taskforce Kate Bingham added: “Protecting those at risk is the only way we will end this pandemic. That’s why we are working as quickly as possible to run clinical studies on the most promising vaccines to see whether they offer protection against COVID-19, whilst adhering to the UK’s strict safety and regulatory processes. And we need people throughout the UK to sign up to the registry to help us achieve this.
“Getting 100,000 volunteers on board is a great start but we need many more people from many different backgrounds that we can call on for future studies if we are to find a vaccine quickly to protect those who need it against coronavirus.”
Consultant Respiratory Physician and Director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) PRC, Bradford, Dinesh Saralaya said: “The best way to protect us from future outbreaks is to develop effective vaccines. Several vaccine trials are being conducted around the UK in the coming months and it is important that we all sign up to be contacted about them.
“I would like to reassure people that research trials and studies are strictly regulated for ethics and safety. They are conducted within the framework of the NIHR, which is the research partner of the NHS, and we take every precaution to safeguard participants taking part. This includes appointments in settings like sports halls close to where people live and work rather than in hospitals.
“By working together, we can produce efficient vaccines which are likely to protect all sections of our society from this dreadful virus in future.”
18-year-old Marium Zumeer, who was hospitalised after contracting COVID-19, has first-hand experience of the benefits of taking part in clinical trials. During her time in intensive care, she was offered the opportunity to take part in the national RECOVERY trial, which is testing a range of potential treatments for COVID-19. This includes the drug dexamethasone, which was found to be the first drug to be effective when treating those who are critically ill with the virus.
RECOVERY trial volunteer Marium Zumeer said: “I will always be grateful for being encouraged to sign up. I remember my dad at the time urging me to take part, not just for myself but for the wider community. The result has been really positive for me and I would encourage others to do their bit in helping us all in the fight against coronavirus.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “I’m very grateful to those who have volunteered for researchers to contact them to take part in COVID-19 vaccine studies, via the NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry.
“The more people who volunteer to take part the more likely we find an answer to whether any vaccine is effective.
“Having 100,000 volunteers in just four weeks shows the selflessness of the public and is testament to the speed of work done by the Vaccines Taskforce, National Institute for Health Research and others to make signing up possible.
“I urge people to continue to sign up. It is important that we have people from different backgrounds and ages as volunteers, so that the vaccines that are developed work for everyone.
A number of trials in the UK are expected to begin this autumn, working with the NHS, research institutions and businesses, helping to develop and manufacture the vaccines.”
Launched on 20 July, the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry is an online service allowing members of the public to register their interest in COVID-19 vaccine studies and be contacted to participate in future clinical trials.
Vaccines are tested in stages to ensure they are safe and effective. Volunteers who are contacted to take part in trials will be given information about what stage a particular vaccine is at and details of how it has already been tested. They will be able to consider this when deciding to take part and people can withdraw from the registry at any point.
The Registry has been developed by the government, in partnership with the NIHR, NHS Digital, the Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland Executive.
To find out more visit the Registry by clicking here.