The UK has launched a vaccine trial that will study if giving different first and second doses of vaccines to people works better in comparison to the current approach of giving them the same vaccine doses. The study is the first of its kind and has received government funding worth Β£7 million from the Vaccines Taskforce.

The study is being conducted by the National Immunisation Schedule Evaluation Consortium (NISEC) and the Oxford Vaccine Group.

What is this trial?

The aim of the trial is to study if alternating doses of two approved vaccines alongside different dosing intervals are effective. The study will recruit over 800 volunteers aged 50-years and above and will run in eight sites across England including Oxford, London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Bristol and Southampton.

As of now, a same-dose regimen is being followed under UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Senior Responsible Officer for the study Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was quoted as saying in a press release that administering different approved vaccine doses may enhance the immune response by increasing the number of antibodies that last longer.

β€œGiven the inevitable challenges of immunising large numbers of the population against COVID-19 and potential global supply constraints, there are definitely advantages to having data that could support a more flexible immunisation programme, if ever needed and approved by the medicines regulator,” Van-Tam said.

If the trial finds evidence to support such a possibility it will make the immunisation programme more flexible, considering the possibility of supply shortages of doses. A report in the BBC noted that there are a number of challenges in the vaccine supply chains, from manufacturing, packaging, batch test and approval to cold chain delivery.

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The study is expected to run for a period of 13 months and volunteers will be recruited over the course of February. Vaccinations will be administered starting the middle of February and preliminary results will be made available over the course of the next few months.

Which vaccine doses will be tested?

Initially, the study will test eight different combinations of vaccines, but more products may be added later on. These eight combinations are:

Oxford/AstraZeneca and Oxford/AstraZeneca – 28 days apart

Oxford/AstraZeneca and Oxford/AstraZeneca – 12 weeks apart – as a control group

Pfizer/BioNTech and Pfizer/BioNTech – 28 days apart

Pfizer/BioNTech and Pfizer/BioNTech – 12 weeks apart – as a control group

Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech – 28 days apart

Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech – 12 weeks apart

Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca – 28 days apart

Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca – 12 weeks apart

In the UK, over 10 million people have received at least one vaccine dose for COVID-19 in the biggest vaccination program in the history of the country. There are two kinds of vaccines being administered in the UK, one is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the second is the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Both these vaccines are delivered in two doses.

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