World-first Covid-19 vaccine booster study launched in the UK

Thousands of volunteers will receive a booster COVID-19 vaccine in a new clinical trial launching last night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 8:44 am

The Cov-Boost study, led by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and backed by £19.3 million of government funding through the Vaccines Taskforce, will trial seven vaccines and will be the first in the world to provide vital data on the impact of a third dose on patients’ immune responses.

It will give scientists from around the globe and the experts behind the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme a better idea of the impact of a booster dose of each vaccine in protecting individuals from the virus.

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Health secretary Matt Hancock

The study will take place at 16 NIHR-supported sites across England, and also within Health and Care Research Wales and NHS Research Scotland sites. It will include a total of 2,886 patients and participants are to begin being vaccinated from early June.

All participants will be monitored throughout the study for any side effects and will have bloods taken to measure their immune responses at days 28, 84, 308 and 365, with a small number having additional blood tests at other times. All sites will have an electronic diary for all participants that will send alerts to the team in real time if needed and a 24-hour emergency phone to a doctor on the study, who can provide further clinical advice.

The initial findings, expected in September, will help inform decisions by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on plans for a booster programme from autumn this year, ensuring the country’s most vulnerable are given the strongest possible protection over the winter period.

The Health Secretary has also announced that the 2021 G7 Health Ministers’ Meeting will be held in-person at Oxford University on 3-4 June. As part of the UK’s G7 Presidency, we are bringing together health leaders from the world’s leading democracies to agree life-saving action in the critical areas of clinical trials, global health security, antimicrobial resistance, and digital health to help protect us all from future pandemics.

Mr Hancock said: “The UK vaccination programme has been a phenomenal national effort, with seven in ten UK adults now having had their first COVID-19 jab. It is vital that we continue to support the world-renowned British research sector that has contributed to its success.

“We will do everything we can to future-proof this country from pandemics and other threats to our health security, and the data from this world-first clinical trial will help shape the plans for our booster programme later this year.

“I urge everyone who has had both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and is eligible, to sign up for this study and play a part in protecting the most vulnerable people in this country and around the world for months and years to come.”

The trial will look at seven different COVID-19 vaccines as potential boosters, given at least 10 to 12 weeks after a second dose as part of the ongoing vaccination programme. One booster will be provided to each volunteer and could be a different brand to the one they were originally vaccinated with.

​In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.