HUNDREDS of volunteers are being sought from among NHS staff in Gwent to take part in the crucial next phases of a UK-wide COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Wales is set to play a vital role in seeking a way out of the coronavirus pandemic, and 500 participants will be recruited from among the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board workforce for the Oxford University-sponsored trial.

Co-ordinated by Health and Care Research Wales, a collaboration between Public Health Wales, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University will take part in the next phase of the Oxford Vaccine Group COVID-19 trial.

The aim is to find a safe vaccine that will develop immunity against the virus and thus prevent the disease. The study aims to recruit 10,000 participants overall across the UK.

COVID-19 vaccine development is a vital part of the long-term response to the coronavirus pandemic and Wales will be joined by multiple other sites across the UK as part of phase two and three of the study.

It will look at safety and efficacy of the vaccine and is a 'blind' trial using MenACWY meningitis vaccine as a control. The vaccine is described as a low risk Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) inactive vaccine.

This part of the trial is not open to members of the public.

Volunteers will be staff aged 18 and over working within health and care settings within the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area.

This will include hospitals, GP practices, pharmacy, physiotherapy, community care, and other non-clinical professions within secondary care who are deemed at risk of exposure to coronavirus. Eligible participants will receive details from the health board about how to participate if they wish.


“This is an important study to test the effectiveness of one of the main candidate vaccines for COVID-19 in Wales," said Dr Chris Williams, principal investigator for Public Health Wales and lead for the vaccine trial in Wales.

"If successful, vaccination will provide a route out of this pandemic. We will be recruiting participants for screening and administration of vaccine, and monitoring outcomes and safety.”

Professor Sue Bale, Director of Research and Development at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said that finding a vaccine for COVID-19 "is thought to be the only way in which we can start to return to any degree of normality as a society".

"Scientists at Oxford University have developed a vaccine and the health board has the exciting opportunity for 500 of our staff to take part in this fantastic trial.”

Professor Kieran Walshe, Director of Health and Care Research Wales, which is nationally co-ordinating research and study-set up in Wales, said research is vital to finding new ways to deal with COVID-19 and its impact on health and care, and a vaccine is the "ultimate goal".

"I am proud that researchers in Wales are working with national partners to find the most effective treatments, and to trial the Oxford vaccine here in Wales," he said.

"Our research community and our health and social care staff, are making a real difference to finding a lasting solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Professor Kerry Hood, Director of the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University said: “We are delighted to be able to build on our previous collaborations with Public Health Wales and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to help them to set up this vitally important vaccine trial.

"Usually a study like this would take months to set up, but with such a dedicated, skilled team working across organisational boundaries has achieved an amazing feat.

"This is a mighty step for research, even if it is only what may seem a small step in our national response to COVID-19.”

The trial is funded by CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) UK Research and Innovation.