COVID-19 variant vaccine begins recruiting in south London

Volunteers in south London are being asked to take part in a new research study

Coronavirus vaccine

Volunteers in south London are being asked to take part in a study using an Oxford/AstraZeneca variant vaccine, aimed at preventing the Beta COVID-19 variant.

The University of Oxford, in partnership with AstraZeneca, are leading the Phase II/III study, supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which will assess the safety and immunogenicity of the variant vaccine in both previously vaccinated and unvaccinated adults.

The study, taking place in south London at the NIHR Wellcome King’s Clinical Research Facility at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, will recruit approximately 1,865 participants across the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Poland, including 800 participants across 14 NIHR sites.

The new variant vaccine, known as AZD2816, has been designed using the same adenoviral vector platform developed by researchers at the University of Oxford using the ChAdOx platform technology, with ten minor genetic alterations to the spike protein based on the Beta (B.1.351, South African) variant.

The variant vaccine will be administered to those previously fully vaccinated with two doses of original Oxford/AstraZeneca (also known as Vaxzevria) or an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna), at least three months after their last injection. AZD2816 will be given as two doses in non-vaccinated individuals either four or twelve weeks apart, or given as a second dose four weeks after a first dose of Vaxzevria.

Professor Sir Andrew J Pollard, Chief Investigator and Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, said: “Testing booster doses of existing vaccines and new variant vaccines is important to ensure we are best prepared to stay ahead of the pandemic coronavirus, should their use be needed.”

Elka Giemza, manager of the King’s Clinical Research Facility said: “While the UK’s vaccine rollout programme has been very successful, some currently available COVID-19 vaccines may not be as effective against new variants of the Sars-Cov-2 virus, such as the Beta variant which is prevalent in South Africa but has also been detected in the UK. It is important that we develop effective vaccines against these new variants and the CRF, along with site lead Dr James Galloway, is proud to be supporting this important work.”

Professor Andrew Ustianowski, NIHR Clinical Lead for COVID-19 Vaccination Programme and Joint National Infection Specialty Lead, said: "Throughout the pandemic the UK has demonstrated its expertise in clinical vaccine research, consistently supported by the fantastic efforts of tens of thousands of study participants. The latest booster study from Oxford/AstraZeneca is just one of the latest, world-leading steps in our battle to tackle the virus and one of the variants of concern.

“We are calling on the general public once again to work alongside researchers to help recruit to this study and help gather the data we need on the new vaccine. Those interested in taking part in this and future booster vaccine studies can register their interest to be contacted by visiting nhs.uk/researchcontact.”

The study is recruiting participants until August, with initial data from the trial expected later this year. Once available, data will be submitted to regulators for assessment as a next-generation booster vaccine and through an expedited regulatory pathway.

To register your interest in taking part in this study, visit the study website. Those interested in finding out more about booster vaccine studies and to volunteer to be contacted about taking part in trials can sign-up to the NHS COVID Vaccine Research Registry.

Study volunteers will be recruited across 14 sites in the trial, including:

- University of Nottingham Health Service (Cripps Health Centre)
- North Manchester General Hospital
- Freeman Hospital
- University College Hospital
- Royal London
- Western General Hospital
- St.Thomas' Hospital
- King's College Hospital (Denmark Hill)
- Derriford Hospital
- Churchill Hospital
- Bristol CRF
- Southmead Hospital
- Northern General Hospital
- Hull Royal Infirmary