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The Liverpool trials started back in May 2020, as one of the 18 sites across the UK. The Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) approved the vaccine on 30 December 2020. The World Health Organization has also now recommended it’s used globally for all adults.
Dr Andrea Collins, a respiratory consultant for Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who also works as a researcher for The Liverpool Tropical School of Medicine, said that the response from volunteers locally had been ‘simply amazing’.
Dr Collins said: “We’ve been really fortunate in Liverpool to be at the forefront of this vaccine research. We had nearly 1,000 volunteers in the Oxford study and were one of the biggest sites nationally.
“The partnership, hard work and dedication shown in Liverpool was absolutely amazing and its success is down to everyone involved.
“As we all know, the vaccination is being rolled out and is protecting people, right now. We only started on this journey nine months ago, so this is an incredible feat for the city of Liverpool to be involved in.”
The city trial was a partnership between the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal, Aintree and Broadgreen hospitals, and the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network: North West Coast.
Dr Collins added: “Infection based clinical research continues to grow exponentially in Liverpool; our partnership approach, showcases how to we can successfully recruit to and deliver a trial which has the eyes of the world on it.
“People in and around Liverpool who volunteered to be a part of the trials have helped the city remain a global infection research leader. They have been instrumental in making it possible to produce a vaccine – for a relatively cheap cost – which will help to save millions of lives across the world. We owe them a massive debt of gratitude.”
The next stage of this research requires a further 100 people initially to ‘mix and match’ the different ‘brands’ of vaccine in a study called Combination of Covid Vaccines Study (Com-Cov). Experts, like Dr Andrea Collins, believe this could pave the way to making vaccinations even more effective by potentially improving their breadth and length of protection against severe disease.
The National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network: North West Coast, will showcase the work of the volunteers during a week-long virtual event – The Research and Innovation Awards – to be held at the end of March.
Dr Paul Plant, a respiratory consultant who works at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was one of the first volunteers to join the pioneering Oxford trials.
During the first and second waves of the pandemic, he worked on the ventilation in-patient centre, caring for very sick patients with Covid-19 who required Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).
Throughout 2020, he was unsure whether he had received the Oxford or the Placebo vaccines – there was a 50-50 chance of receiving the Oxford vaccinations. It was not until the beginning of 2021 it was revealed he had received the then licensed Oxford jabs initially in May 2020.
Dr Plant added: “I felt completely well after the vaccinations. During my hospital work, despite having high exposure to Covid, I have remained completely well and remained ‘negative’ throughout the weekly swabbing.
“Once the Pfizer vaccine was available, the study team ‘unblinded’ me meaning I discovered which vaccine I had received. I was delighted to discover I was already fully vaccinated. It gave me and my family a massive sense of relief – we even cracked open a bottle to celebrate!
“I still have to wear PPE, but I have more confidence that I will remain safe and well – that’s really a big relief. I’d like to send a massive thank you to Astra Zeneca, the Oxford vaccine team, and of course our Liverpool study team. I still remain in the study so we can gain more vital information about Pfizer and Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine protection against the new Covid strains as well as whether they can protect us from transmitting the disease to others.”
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