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Northern Ireland residents invited to volunteer for Covid-19 vaccine research

Volunteers can sign up to a registry to link researchers with potential trial participants.

Image: Shutterstock/wutzkohphoto

NORTHERN IRELAND RESIDENTS have been invited to sign up to participate in vaccine trials.

They’re being encouraged to sign up for the NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry, which will be used to recruit volunteers for Covid-19 vaccine trials over the coming months.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) aims to sign up over half a million people in the UK to the registry to link participants with researchers.

It is hoped that the registry will reduce the amount of time it takes researchers to find volunteers for vaccine studies, which in turn would allow studies and a vaccine to be completed more efficiently.

People who sign up will register their willingness to participate in clinical studies for a Covid-19 vaccine generally.  Researchers on specific studies supported by the NIHR can then search for volunteers who have signed up to the registry.

Those who have signed up to the registry and meet the criteria for a particular study may be contacted through email or text by a researcher with more information on the study and an offer to express their interest to participate, or to contact the research team to learn more.

Personal data and permissions is to be held in a system managed by NHS Digital, which is responsible for IT in the health and social care system in the UK.

People who have joined the registry are not obliged to take part in a study and can choose to later remove their contact details from the registry.

Assistant Director in the Public Health Agency’s research and development division, Dr Janice Bailie, said that “health researchers are currently working to find a vaccine for Covid-19, but without the help of members of the general public willing to participate in vaccine trials, this work will not be able to succeed”.

“The NHS COVID-19 vaccine registry allows people to register their interest and be potentially contacted with an offer to participate in clinical studies,” Dr Bailie said.

“By collecting details about people who are interested in taking part in vaccine studies, the registry service will help cut down the time it takes to find volunteers for vaccine studies. This will help us to carry out studies and find a vaccine faster.”

Northern Ireland Minister of Health Robin Swann said that it was “vital that the people of Northern Ireland play their part in this important initiative” and that the register would allow the public to “contribute to the global effort to find a vaccine for Covid-19 and help save lives in the future”.

Currently, there are several potential vaccines for Covid-19 being identified and safety-tested, in the UK and globally.

As of 31 July, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded 26 candidate vaccines in the clinical evaluation stage of development. 

One of the most prominent of these is a vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

The first human trials of the Oxford team’s vaccine suggested that it triggers two types of immune response and did not come with any serious side effects.

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In trials, the candidate vaccine stimulated the production of antibodies and white blood cells that attack human cells infected with the virus.

The initial human trials of the Oxford vaccine involved 1,077 people, and further trials are currently underway with 30,000 participants.

The WHO has listed a further 139 candidate vaccines in preclinical evaluation, which is the stage of research that takes place before clinical trials.

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