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UK launches seven-vaccine trial to test Covid jab booster shots

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Thousands of volunteers in the UK will be given a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as part of a large trial to provide experts with more information about the impact of booster jabs, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

Launched on Wednesday, the Cov-Boost study will see seven of the world’s main jabs trialled on 2,886 patients and participants at 18 National Health Service (NHS) sites across the country.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust will lead the study, which is backed by £19.3 million ($27.3 million) of taxpayers’ money.

Adults aged 30 and over will start receiving their additional dose of a vaccine from June, with preliminary results of the study expected in September.

“We will do everything we can to future-proof this country from pandemics and other threats to our health security,” Hancock said in a statement on the project.

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The health secretary said the study was the “first in the world” to provide data on patients’ immune responses to third doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

However, research on the impact of third doses is already underway, including a study by Pfizer to analyse the effects of its Covid-19 vaccine on emerging variants of the virus.

In February, the US pharmaceutical giant and its German partner BioNTech announced they were studying the safety and the level of immune response of a third dose of their jointly-developed Covid jab against variants of the virus.

Around the same time, Pfizer’s fellow US Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna also announced it had begun giving volunteers third doses of its jab to study its efficacy against variants.

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Both vaccines are set to be included in the UK trial, alongside those made by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Novavax, Valneva, Johnson & Johnson and Curevac.

Each volunteer will receive one booster dose, which may be of a different vaccine to that which they received as their previous shot.

The Novavax, Valneva and Curevac jabs will also be trialled at half-doses to see if this offers adequate protection and if it relieves recipients of any of the common side effects of vaccination.

Participants will be monitored throughout the study for side effects and will have their blood taken at four intervals within 12 months of vaccination to measure their immune responses.

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