Mags Murray, Programme Manager, HSC R&D Division
As the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt by us all, there’s never been a more important time for health research studies. Development of Covid-19 vaccines is taking place at an unprecedented pace and scale. Currently, there are almost 150 potential vaccines under development worldwide.
Almost 20 of these are in early phase clinical trials where the safety of the vaccine is monitored. Six trials have progressed to the next stage where the ability of the vaccine to protect against coronavirus infection is being investigated.
In April 2020, the UK Government established a Vaccine Taskforce (VTF) to speed-up the delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine. The VTF provides support on a number of levels including research and development of vaccines within the UK. Two vaccines developed in the UK are currently involved in clinical trials.
The initial results of the Oxford University vaccine were published recently and are promising, and results from the Imperial College London vaccine are to be expected soon. The VTF has also strengthened the clinical trial infrastructure where a UK-wide, coordinated approach has been adopted to ensure that the UK is globally competitive to attract clinical trials of the leading vaccines to the region. Northern Ireland (NI) is contributing to this UK-wide approach, which is necessary to making this happen.
The Health and Social Care Research & Development Division (HSC R&D) supports the planning and delivery of Covid-19 vaccine trials in NI by working closely with a wide range of regional stakeholders: Northern Ireland Clinical Trials Network (NICRN); Health and Social Care Trusts; Queen’s University Belfast; Ulster University; HSC Health Protection; Northern Ireland Clinical Trials Unit (NICTU); the Pathology Network and other research facilities. The NI team are currently preparing a bid to attract trials to NI and is hopeful that recruitment will start in the autumn. More information will be made available on this at www.research.hscni.net
Throughout the UK, it is hoped that around 100,000 volunteers will be recruited within a relatively short period of time for the vaccine trials. To address this, the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) launched a service where you can give permission for researchers to contact you about taking part in Covid-19 vaccine trials in your region. You can register your interest if you are aged 18 or over and living in the UK. To sign-up to be contacted about Covid-19 vaccine trials visit: www.nhs.uk/researchcontact
Covid-19 vaccine trials are essential to identify which vaccines are both safe and effective, so that wide scale vaccination can start as soon as possible.