Thousands of people who took part in a Covid-19 vaccine trial can now have two further doses of another vaccine to enable them to travel abroad, the Government has announced.
After taking advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Department of Health said those in England who took part in the UK-based Novavax trial should be offered two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech jab, with eight weeks between the doses.
More than 15,000 people took part in the phase 3 Novavax trial at various hospital sites across the UK, but the company has not yet submitted data to regulators to get the jab approved.
It means thousands of people have been unable to travel abroad because other countries do not recognise Novavax as a valid Covid vaccine.
The offer of two doses of Pfizer, which is being rolled out from next week, means people will be able to travel and have two doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine their record, as well as on the NHS app.
People will be able to get their extra vaccines following a discussion with an investigator from the Novavax clinical trials team.
The offer of two further vaccines will also be rolled out to participants in other relevant vaccine trials in the coming weeks, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
No evidence exists to date on administering four doses of different vaccines, although experts do not expect significant issues.
However, there is evidence that mixing three doses of different vaccines is safe, as set out in the COV-Boost vaccine trial.
If people from the Novavax study are eligible for the Pfizer Covid booster jab currently being rolled out across the UK, the booster dose can count as the first of the two doses that are needed for travel.
We should be very clear that the results from these trials benefit the whole world, and it has to be said that if more countries around the world had reciprocated by allowing UK volunteers to enjoy fully vaccinated status for overseas travel, these measures would not have been necessary
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: “Covid-19 vaccine trials have been absolutely integral to our response to the virus, and as a result we now have our renowned vaccination programme, which continues to save lives. I urge as many people as possible to continue contributing to these trials.
“The measures we have taken will allow UK Covid-19 vaccine trial participants to travel freely overseas once they have had the additional vaccinations.
“Those volunteers now have the flexibility to make a decision for themselves so they can, for example, visit loved ones abroad.
“We should be very clear that the results from these trials benefit the whole world, and it has to be said that if more countries around the world had reciprocated by allowing UK volunteers to enjoy fully vaccinated status for overseas travel, these measures would not have been necessary.
“As a separate issue, those in trials who are eligible for boosters should receive the booster dose in order to ensure the highest possible protection over winter.”
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland health teams are expected to follow suit for vaccine trial participants in their regions.
Around 21,000 people in England are thought to have been given a vaccine not yet approved for widespread use, including Novavax and Valneva.