Participants speak about their involvement in Greater Manchester’s first COVID-19 vaccine trial

Participants in Greater Manchester’s first COVID-19 vaccine study have spoken about their personal experiences and why they wanted to get involved.

The study is testing the safety and effectiveness of a new vaccine, developed by US biotechnology company Novavax.

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust was the first site in Greater Manchester selected to undertake the Novavax study. Almost 750 volunteers from Stockport, South East Manchester and East Cheshire areas are taking part in the trial, which closed to new participants this week. A total of 15,000 volunteers are taking part nationally.

Around 140 members of NHS staff from across Greater Manchester have been working on carrying out this study at a community sports club, supporting Stockport NHS Foundation Trust as part of a large-scale collaborative effort.

This is the first in a number of Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trials to be carried out in Greater Manchester, in cooperation with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Other COVID-19 vaccine trials are currently taking place locally and more are due to be undertaken over the coming months, calling on volunteers who have signed up to the NHS Vaccine Registry. You can still sign sign-up now.

Phase 3 studies involve many thousands of people, giving researchers insights into the effects of a vaccine on a much larger population than phase 1 and 2 studies.

Dr David Baxter, Principal Investigator for the trial at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have had an absolutely tremendous response from the public in joining in our research trial. Establishing safe vaccines to combat COVID-19 has been one of the key medical challenges the world has faced in modern times, and people have been very keen to help our research team with this.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers for their time, effort and support, and also acknowledge the considerable input from healthcare staff both in Stockport and from across Greater Manchester for their tireless work in the study.”

Participants in the Novavax trial at Stockport have explained their reasons for volunteering and given an insight into what taking part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial involves.

Stephen, 39, of Edgeley, said: “I’ve never taken part in research before, but I wanted to get involved in this trial because of the situation with COVID-19. I’ve got a few friends and family who have not really left the house since the beginning of the pandemic, so I just thought the sooner we can get back to some variation of normal, the better, and a vaccine could help with that. On the day of my first appointment, I was given detailed information at every stage about what the trial involves and why it is taking place. A doctor then did some thorough measurements and checks with me before I was given either the vaccine that’s being trialled or a placebo. The nursing team was really thorough and talked me through exactly what the next steps will be as I continue through the trial.”

Sarah, 43, of Ashton-under-Lyne, said: “I have a young family and obviously the current situation has really changed the way that we live, so I am really keen to do anything that will help everyone out of this situation. When I arrived, Dr Baxter [the lead researcher on the trial at Stockport] sat everyone down and explained the process and talked about how the vaccine trials work. He explained that this is Phase 3 and what that means. There was an opportunity to ask questions and it was a really good process. We were in a group of seven [for the initial introductory session] and it was a really open opportunity to ask anything we were concerned about. All the way through, when I met the doctor and the nurse at the next stages, that was the same. It’s been a really pleasant experience despite there being needles involved. I did worry a little bit, but it’s been fine.”

Adam, 64, of Heaton Mersey, said: “I’ve not been involved in research before, but I was interested in this because it [a vaccine for COVID-19] is on everyone’s lips. It was a very broad level of information that was given [on the day of the first appointment]. I would encourage others to register. I think it’s vital that people get involved in research for the benefit of others.”

Andrew, 72, of Stockport, said: “With something like COVID-19, you can feel so hopeless and that there’s nothing much you can do about it, so I felt that committing to the research was just a small act that I could make. There is a very clear system of arriving safely, being booked in and being given very clear information by the lead researcher of the study; followed by an assessment with a doctor, various tests with the nurse and finally an injection and information to take home. I had a lot of information beforehand and that same information, and more, was given again today. It was very clear what was required and what was involved.”

Dmitriy, 37, of Marple, said: “There are multiple reasons why I’m taking part. We are seeing the amount of disruption that this disease is causing everybody throughout the world and we want to get to grips with that and I think that a lot of people are seeing that the vaccine is one of the most guaranteed ways to end this situation. When I arrived, we had an introductory conversation with the medical doctor who’s the lead on this study. He explained what the vaccine is, what it does, what potentially the minor side-effects might be and how the study is going to work. Then we had a few vital signs tests with various clinical staff – they were all really friendly and helpful, checking the bloods, breathing, weight and height and things like that.  After that, we did a COVID test as well, just to make sure we’re not carrying the virus at the moment. And after that there was the vaccination itself, and it was all nice and straightforward, just a jab in your arm, not much pain and it was great. Then we spent another 20 or 30 minutes just to be monitored – your blood pressure and pulse and things like that – to make sure that you’re fine. And then you’re free to go and there will be follow-up appointments – another vaccination in a couple of weeks’ time and then monitoring for up to a year. So all very straightforward and no problem at all. I would say it’s a great opportunity to contribute to this important cause. I feel like we should all play a part if we can. Of course, we do social distancing and wear masks and things like that, but there is also a very important process to try to get something that will hopefully relieve us from this disease and I think a vaccination is probably the only way forward on a longer timescale, so I think I would really encourage you to consider that. I don’t think there are major side-effects and I think the benefits to the overall community and to research longer-term will be tremendous.”

Pat, 57, of Leek, said: “I wanted to take part for two reasons. I think a vaccine is going to be quite crucial in letting us get back to some kind of normal life. Also, I am in the events industry and we haven’t been able to work since March and I think a vaccine is going to be critical for the
future of large events and large gatherings. I think the communication with the trial has been excellent, from the initial call, and then everything this morning has been very well explained. I felt very happy to do it. I had no concerns. All our questions were answered through the introduction from Dr Baxter [the lead researcher for this trial in Stockport] and I am very happy to be part of this really important research trial.”

Wayne, 47, of Stockport, said: “There are a number of reasons why I’m taking part. Firstly, there has been that much chaos since the lockdown. It’s been awful for people having to self-isolate; my mum is in a high-risk category as she’s over-75 and I haven’t seen her since Christmas. You always feel as though you should do something and there are things like volunteering to help with food banks, or things such as that, but that’s just not been something I’ve been able to do. I lost my job recently and I thought ‘I’m fit, I’m healthy, and if I can help out and help other people who are worse off than me, then why not do it’. And getting involved with this trial was a very straightforward process. I would certainly encourage other people to consider doing it. Once you are here, you are made to feel welcome and you’re made to feel appreciated as well, I didn’t realise how important the study was until the doctor went through it with me. You really do feel you are contributing to getting a vaccine and getting us out of this mess.”

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