LSTM has begun recruiting frontline health and social care workers to take part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial.
Due to the expertise of LSTM’s Respiratory Clinical Research Group, and working in collaboration with the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT) and the Well Travelled Clinic (WTC), LSTM has been selected as one of the UK sites for Phase III of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. Led by Professor Andrew Pollard from the Oxford Vaccine Group, the trial will study the efficacy and safety of the candidate COVID-19 vaccine (ChADOx1 ncov-19) in UK heathy adults.
The team at LSTM is under the leadership of Professor Daniela Ferreira: “We were delighted to be asked by Professor Pollard to be a site for the study. From the vaccine candidates we have in the race against COVID, the Oxford vaccine is progressing at an amazing pace. If the trials demonstrate this vaccine is safe and effective there will be millions of doses already produced that could be quickly administered. The potential impact of this could be massive on two fronts, by saving millions of lives not only in the UK, but also globally, as well as the economic benefits of allowing society to get back to normal without the risk of future COVID-19 peaks.”
Building on the group’s success in recruiting volunteers to numerous studies mostly focused on respiratory infection predominately pneumonia and vaccines, communications have been sent out to all of the NHS Trusts within Merseyside as well as to CCGs, GPs and care homes asking for volunteers. The team will recruit 500 frontline staff, screening and vaccinating them, either with the COVID-19 candidate or with a meningitis vaccine (MenACWY) used as a control in this randomised blind study.
One of the study leads in Liverpool is Dr Andrea Collins, a Senior Clinical Lecturer at LSTM and Honorary Consultant in Respiratory Infection at LUHFT. She said: “This is an incredibly important study to be involved in and we are delighted to be able to utilise the amazing respiratory infection expertise that we have within our team at LSTM, and across Liverpool and Merseyside to make a vital contribution from the Northwest to this UK-wide phase of this pivotal clinical trial.”
Recruitment has begun with the co-operation and support of the Chief Executives of the NHS Trusts in the area, the Clinical Commissioning Groups and the directors of numerous care homes. Potential candidates will go through a screening process to ensure, among other things that they do not fall into a ‘vulnerable group’, and they will be tested to ensure they have not previously been infected with COVID-19. If suitable, they will be vaccinated the next week, although they will not know if they have been vaccinated with the COVID-19 candidate or the meningitis vaccine.
With such high numbers of potential participants and a limited time frame, volunteers to help with the logistics of the trial are essential. Dr Helen Hill is a Clinical Research Associate and one of the study leads, she explains: “We have had a huge amount of support from the Chief Executive level within the hospitals, and I am also delighted by the response that we have had to our call for voluntary ‘Ambassadors’ to help marshal and ensure that participants remain socially distanced when they attend screening or vaccination appointments and Medics, from consultants to junior doctors. We have already recruited over 100 people to the ambassador scheme, some of whom have had their own work or studies interrupted by the pandemic including a number of medical and dental students who are keen to make a contribution to the trial.”
As a collaboration across a number of institutions and organisations across the City, LSTMs participation in the trial underlines Liverpool’s excellence in the field of infectious diseases and its contribution to national effort to carry out research to find solutions to pandemic. Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “I welcome the news that the expertise of scientists and medics in Liverpool is being called upon in the Oxford trials. Those who volunteer to be part of the testing will be involved in one of the most important medical research projects for generations, which could provide the breakthrough that we so desperately need to tackle this devastating virus.”