The Daily Telegraph

Vaccine trials need more elderly volunteers

Most vulnerable groups at risk of ineffectiv­e treatment unless there is an increase in sign ups, warn experts

- By Henry Bodkin HEALTH CORRESPOND­ENT Putin,

PENSIONERS are being urged to volunteer for Covid-19 vaccine trials, as ministers reveal the programme is falling behind its recruitmen­t target.

Officials last night voiced concern that future treatments might not work for people who are most vulnerable to the virus unless more from those groups sign up.

More than 100,000 people have volunteere­d for clinical trials for a Covid vaccine since the scheme was launched on July 20.

However, the pace of recruitmen­t will have to improve if the Government is to meet its target of half a million volunteers by the start of October.

In particular, scientists need to test candidate vaccines on people aged over 65 and those from black, Asian and minority ethnic background­s.

The vast majority of deaths since the start of the pandemic have come from the over-65s age group.

Meanwhile, in June a Government­ordered inquiry found that deaths among people of black and Asian origin were higher than any other ethnic group.

The over-recruitmen­t of white trial participan­ts for developmen­t of drugs is a long-standing problem in the pharmaceut­ical sector.

Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, said: “Scientists and researcher­s are working day and night to find a vaccine that meets the UK’S rigorous regulatory and safety standards, but they need hundreds of thousands of people of all background­s and ages to sign up for studies to speed up this vital research.

“I urge everyone to play our part in the fight against coronaviru­s and join the 100,000 people who have already registered, so we can help save and protect millions of lives.”

Most experts agree that in the absence of a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine it will not be possible to ease all restrictio­ns without losing control of the outbreak.

Developmen­t programmes are currently under way across the world, with a candidate created by the Jenner Institute at Oxford University arguably the best hope for a Uk-made drug.

Trials in the UK have been hampered by the relatively low amount of coronaviru­s circulatin­g in the community, making it impossible for scientists to judge whether the drug is effective.

The Oxford trial has consequent­ly set up groups in both South Africa and Brazil, where rates of community transmissi­on are higher.

The Government has now reached agreements it says will give British citizens early access to 90million doses of two more potential Covid-19 vaccines.

Under the in-principle agreements, the UK has secured 60million doses of the Novavax vaccine, and is supporting a phase 3 clinical trial with the National Institute for Health Research.

Some 30million doses have been secured from Janssen and ministers have agreed in principle to co-fund a global clinical study of its vaccine.

Earlier this month Vladimir the Russian president, announced that the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow had produced a safe and effective vaccine which had been administer­ed to his daughter.

The global scientific community has urged caution, however, and challenged Russia to publish all the data justifying the claim.

Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said: “I’m very grateful to those who have volunteere­d for researcher­s to contact them to take part in Covid-19 vaccine studies, via the NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry.

“The more people who volunteer to take part, the more likely we find an answer to whether any vaccine is effective.”

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