Thousands of volunteers will receive a Covid vaccine booster in a new “world-first” clinical trial, Matt Hancock has announced.
The health secretary said seven vaccines will be tested to see the impact of a third dose on patients’ immune responses.
It will include a total of 2,886 patients and participants are to begin being vaccinated from early June. The initial findings are expected in September.
“The UK vaccination programme has been a phenomenal national effort, with seven in 10 UK adults now having had their first Covid-19 jab,” Hancock said.
“We will do everything we can to future-proof this country from pandemics and other threats to our health security, and the data from this world-first clinical trial will help shape the plans for our booster programme later this year.”
It comes as Boris Johnson said the government had “increasing confidence” that Covid vaccines are effective against “all variants” of the illness.
But the prime minister admitted the spread of the Indian variant was “one of the issues” that could stop the June 21 unlocking date being met.
Vaccines being trialled include Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, Valneva, Janssen and Curevac.
The Cov-Boost study, led by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and backed by £19.3 million of government funding
Professor Saul Faust, the chief investigator and director of the NIHR Southampton clinical research facility, said it would give Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) data on “how to protect the population against any future wave”.
“It is fantastic that so many people across the country have taken part in vaccine trials up to now so that we can be in a position to study the effects of boosters,” he said.
“We hope that as many people as possible over the age of 30 who received their first dose early in the NHS programme will be able to take part.”
Three of the vaccines will also be tested at a half dose, with experts expecting an adequate immune response at this level.
The half doses will inform whether side-effects are reduced at a lower dose, and could offer useful information to countries where vaccine supply may be more scarce.