A new UK clinical trial will test seven different vaccines for a third ‘booster’ Covid shot and report by September, the Government has announced.
The ‘world-first’ study will see participants given one of seven different existing vaccines as a booster, to see what side effects and immune response they produce.
The study, which will be led by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, will inform any potential booster jab campaign that will be rolled out later in the year, the Government said.
Participants will have already received either two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine or two of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The study, dubbed ‘Cov-Boost’, will see some participants given a third booster that is the same as their first two doses while others will receive a different vaccine from their first two jabs.
The seven vaccines being considered as boosters are Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, Valneva, Janssen and Curevac.
Three of the vaccines will be tested as either a full or half dose to see if a smaller dose provides a better immune response. The booster will be given at least 10 to 12 weeks after a second dose.
Among the 2,886 people expected to take part, the study will look separately at two groups – people aged between 30 and 75, and the over-75s.
Initial results from the trial are expected to be published as early as the end of August in order to inform the JCVI ahead of a Government decision on whether an autumn booster campaign is required.
The Government said this will be the first trial in the world to provide data on the impact of a third dose on patients’ immune responses.
Speaking during a press briefing earlier today, Professor Saul Faust, professor of paediatric immunology and infectious diseases at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We know that to try to protect people against the variants, there are two ways of doing that.
‘Either we raise the antibody levels from current vaccines higher – or we change the vaccine.’
He added: ‘This study is looking at boosting the current strain antibody levels high enough to protect against the circulating strains.’
Announcing the trial, health secretary Matt 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.
‘I urge everyone who has had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, and is eligible, to sign up for this study and play a part in protecting the most vulnerable people in this country and around the world for months and years to come.’
The Government has previously said it is planning for an autumn Covid booster vaccine campaign but the JCVI has yet to issue its advice on whether one is required.
In recent months the deputy chief medical officer for England has said the campaign could be pushed back depending on when the jabs are ‘needed’.
The news comes as a separate trial being run by the University of Oxford is looking at mixing different vaccines for first and second doses. So far it has concluded that mixing vaccines increased mild to moderate side effects but it has yet to report on the impact of mixed schedules on immune response.