King’s recruits and doses its first Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

The hospital is looking for 160 local healthy volunteers to sign-up

Test tubes

King’s College Hospital in south London has recruited its first healthy volunteers to test the safety and efficacy of the new Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. Forty volunteers – some recruited through the NHS Vaccine Registry – have been dosed, either with the vaccine or a placebo, but more are needed.

Trial researchers are looking for healthy volunteers aged 18-84, who are in easy reach of the hospital, to participate in the trial. In particular, researchers are hoping to recruit 25% of participants over the age of 65 as well prioritising other groups that are most affected by COVID-19, including those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

The Novavax vaccine is in phase 3 of the approvals process. It is the second trial vaccine in the UK to have reach this stage, the first being the Oxford vaccine. Phase 3 are largescale trials that focus on the vaccine’s effectiveness, with further checks on safety in a larger population. This followed smaller studies (phase 1 and phase 2) that reported positive results, and which focused on safety and whether there were signs the vaccine could work.

The trial, which is supported by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), is a randomised-controlled trial meaning one group of participants will receive two doses of the experimental vaccine three weeks apart, while the other will receive a placebo (‘dummy vaccine’). Some people may also receive the seasonal flu vaccine at the same time to test how the vaccines work in conjunction with each other. Participants are required to complete six visits to the NIHR/Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at King’s over the course of 13 months.

Dr James Galloway, who is leading on the trial at King’s, said, “One of the most effective ways we can defeat coronavirus is by finding a safe successful vaccine as quickly as possible, so that our lives can start returning to normal. Clinical trials such as this are a key step in the process.

“This vaccine has successfully gone through early safety trials and results to date are very encouraging.

“We’re looking for 160 volunteers from our local community to help us measure how effective the vaccine is in stimulating the immune system to protect against COVID-19.”

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