Coronavirus: How to volunteer for human vaccine trials

Qin Xie
The first human vaccine trials will start on Thursday: AFP

A race is on to find the coronavirus vaccine: Oxford University and Imperial College London have been given a combined total of £84 million by the UK government to support their research.

On 17 May business secretary Alok Sharma said it is hoped 30 million doses could be available in the UK as early as September.

But first the vaccine needs to undergo rigorous testing - including on human volunteers.

In May the first human trials began in England with 1,000 volunteers signing up to take part in the Oxford trial. Then on 16 June, Imperial College London began its human testing stage.

But both groups are still looking for 10,000 more recruits across England, Scotland and Wales.

Heres what you need to know.

Who is running the human vaccine trials?

Several countries are racing to find a vaccine for coronavirus,

In the UK, the first trials will be conducted by two universities – the University of Oxford and Imperial College London – as separate research projects.

If the trials are successful, the first vaccines could come into circulation by autumn this year.

What's the Oxford University vaccine?

The Oxford Vaccine Centre’s COVID-19 vaccine trial is run by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, and is a collaborative project with several partners around the world.

Researches started working on possible vaccines on 10 January 2020 and now think they've found a suitable candidate.

The vaccine they are testing is a chimpanzee adenovirus vaccine vector (an inactive virus) currently named ​ChAdOx1, chosen because "it can generate a strong immune response from one dose and it is not a replicating virus, so it cannot cause an ongoing infection in the vaccinated individual".

These characteristics mean it's safe to be given to children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes.

What's the Imperial College vaccine?

Researchers at Imperial College London have been working on a vaccine since early February.

Details of the vaccine hasn't been made public yet but is said to be a "self-amplifying RNA vaccine", essentially a protein that can replicate itself.

Researchers said: "When immune cells come across these proteins, they will react by creating antibodies to fight off the danger. But they also create a lasting memory of the threat for any future attack."

It's hoped that this vaccine will enable the body to learn to fight off the virus quicker in future.

Who can take part in the clinical trials and how can I get involved?

Oxford University started seeking healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 for their trials at the end of March.

They are now looking for more volunteers in the following areas: West Midlands, Thames Valley, north east of England, Southampton, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, London, Bristol, Sheffield, Merseyside, Hull, East Riding, south Wales, Cambridgeshire, Edinburgh and Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.

You can find out more about the trials and sign up online.

Imperial College has also joined the Oxford team and will be running the trials in London. Separately, they are also looking to start running trials of their version of the vaccine in June.

You can sign up for the Imperial College trial online here.

As well as the human vaccine trials, it's also worth noting that the National Institute for Health Research is also recruiting volunteers for a number of other coronavirus-related clinical trials. You can find out more and sign up here.

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