Five hundred people in Wales are set to take part in a groundbreaking trial for a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford.

The trial will be open to staff aged 18 and above working in health and care settings in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area.

Staff in hospitals, GP practices, pharmacies, physiotherapy, community care and other non-clinical professions within secondary care – who are deemed at risk of exposure to coronavirus – will be eligible.

The aim is to find a safe vaccine that will develop immunity against the virus and prevent the disease from spreading. Overall, the study aims to recruit 10,000 participants.

Those taking part will either receive the trial Covid-19 vaccine or a control vaccine against meningitis – though they will not know which they have had.

Health and Care Research Wales, a collaboration between Public Health Wales, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University, is coordinating the Welsh arm of the trial sponsored by the University of Oxford, while Public Health Wales (PHW) will lead the recruitment.

Dr Chris Williams, principal investigator for Public Health Wales and lead for the vaccine trial in Wales, said: “This is an important study to test the effectiveness of one of the main candidate vaccines for Covid-19 in Wales.

“If successful, vaccination will provide a route out of this pandemic. We will be recruiting participants for screening and administration of vaccine, and monitoring outcomes and safety.”

Eligible participants will receive details from the health board about how to participate if they wish. However, this phase of the trial is not open to members of the public.

The Oxford Vaccine Group Covid-19 trial is funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) UK Research and Innovation.

Professor Sue Bale, director of research and development at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said: “Finding a vaccine for Covid-19 is thought to be the only way in which we can start to return to any degree of normality as a society.

“Scientists at Oxford University have developed a vaccine and the health board has the exciting opportunity for 500 of our staff to take part in this fantastic trial.”

Cardiff university taking part in the trial

Cardiff University is taking part in the trial
(Image: Gavin Dando©)

Professor Kerry Hood, director of the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University, said a study like this would normally take months to set up.

She added: “But with such a dedicated, skilled team working across organisational boundaries has achieved an amazing feat. This is a mighty step for research, even if it is only what may seem a small step in our national response to Covid-19.”

Phase one of the UK-wide Oxford Vaccine Group Covid-19 vaccine trial began in April, with more than 1,000 immunisations already being completed.

Phase two will involve expanding the age range of people the vaccine is assessed in to include a small number of older adults and children, such as those aged 56 to 69, over-70s and five to 12-year-olds.

For these groups, researchers will be assessing the immune response to the vaccine in people of different ages to find out if there is variation in how well the immune system responds in older people or children.

Finally, phase three of the study will involve assessing how the vaccine works in a large number of people over the age of 18. This group will assess how well the vaccine works to prevent people from becoming infected and unwell with Covid-19.

Adult participants in both phase two and three groups will be randomised to receive one or two doses of either the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine or a licensed meningitis vaccine (MenACWY) that will be used as a “control” for comparison.

ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is made from a virus (ChAdOx1), which is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees, that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to replicate in humans.

Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: “The clinical studies are progressing very well and we are now initiating studies to evaluate how well the vaccine induces immune responses in older adults, and to test whether it can provide protection in the wider population.

“We are very grateful to the huge support of the trial volunteers in helping test whether this new vaccine could protect humans against the pandemic coronavirus.”

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, said: “The Covid-19 vaccine trial team have been working hard on assessing the safety and immunogenicity of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, and preparing to assess vaccine efficacy.

“We have had a lot of interest already from people over the age of 55 years who were not eligible to take part in the phase one study, and we will now be able to include older age groups to continue the vaccine assessment. We will also be including more study sites, in different parts of the country.”

This study aims to assess how well people across a broad range of ages could be protected from Covid-19 with this new vaccine.

It will also provide valuable information on safety aspects of the vaccine and its ability to generate good immune responses against the virus.


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