Public urged to help in search for coronavirus vaccine

People living in Northern Ireland are being urged to help in the search for a vaccine for COVID-19, by signing up to the NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry.

The new vaccine research registry will help large numbers of people to be recruited into trials over the coming months, potentially leading to an effective vaccine being identified and made available to the UK public against coronavirus sooner.

It has been developed as part of the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), NHS Digital, and the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Governments. 

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director, R&D Division, Public Health Agency, said: “Health researchers are currently working to find a vaccine for COVID-19, but without the help of members of the general public willing to participate in vaccine trials, this work will not be able to succeed.

“The NHS COVID-19 vaccine registry allows people to register their interest and be potentially contacted with an offer to participate in clinical studies.

“You can sign up to give permission for researchers to contact you about taking part in COVID-19 vaccine studies. By collecting details about people who are interested in taking part in vaccine studies, the registry service will help cut down the time it takes to find volunteers for vaccine studies. This will help us to carry out studies and find a vaccine faster.”

The registry is available to anyone aged 18 or over, living in the UK. To register, people fill in some personal and contact details, and answer a series of basic health screening questions on an NHS web form at www.nhs.uk/researchcontact.

There are a number of potential vaccines being identified and safety-tested at the moment, but only large scale trials can give scientists the information needed about how effective and safe they are. The NIHR working, with Health and Social Care (HSC) in Northern Ireland and the NHS elsewhere in the UK, aims to recruit over half a million people onto the registry, which will allow people to be put in touch with the vaccine trials in the coming months. Researchers are looking for people from all backgrounds, ages and parts of the UK, including both people with or without existing health conditions, to take part in vaccine studies, to make sure that any vaccines developed will work for everyone.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “It is vital that the people of Northern Ireland play their part in this important initiative. I would like everyone to consider signing up to this register so that researchers and the public here can contribute to the global effort to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and help save lives in the future.”

The service is highly secure, with personal data and permissions held in a system managed by NHS Digital, the national organisation responsible for IT in the health and social care system.

People registering their details through the service are not signing up to take part in a specific trial or study. Instead, researchers working on COVID-19 vaccine studies supported by the NIHR will be able to search for volunteers who have signed up to the service.

When a suitable volunteer has been identified, the researchers will send an email or text to anyone who matches the criteria for their study. This will provide more information about the study and offer the user the opportunity to contact the research team and find out more, or express an interest to take part.

There is no obligation to take part in any study and people who sign up can change their mind and remove their contact details from the registry at any time.

To find out more, visit www.nhs.uk/researchcontact. More information about taking part in research and other opportunities to take part in COVID-19 research can be found at www.bepartofresearch.uk