Research teams hit target in COVID boost study

Published: Posted on:

First volunteer to have third booster jab

Research teams at the Royal Sussex County Hospital (RSCH) in Brighton have reached their target of recruiting nearly 150 volunteers to take part in a world leading clinical trial in just three weeks. 

The Brighton hospital is one of 18 National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) supported sites across the UK taking part in the study that will see each volunteer receive a booster COVID-19 vaccine. The COV-BOOST study, led by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and funded by the UK Vaccine Task Force and the National Institute of Health Research, is evaluating whether and how booster vaccines provide further protection against COVID as we approach the winter ( . 

Any person aged over 30, who received their first COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020 or January 2021 and had also had their second dose could apply to participate in the trial, and Alan Street, became the first volunteer from Sussex to take part in the pioneering trial on June 11th. Now just a fortnight later the target of 148 volunteers have been recruited into the study.

The research team at RSCH (which is part of the University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust), are supporting this study which will prove vital for scientists across the globe.

Professor Martin Llewelyn, said: “To have reached our target of volunteers recruited so quickly is great news and another example of the fantastic work our research teams have been doing.

“It really is the most amazing achievement that the research teams across UHSussex have recruited almost 5000 participants to COVID studies since the pandemic began. This is more than any other Trust in Kent, Surrey or Sussex.

“Forty studies have been set up across our different hospital sites including landmark trials (including vaccine trials) which have changed practice globally. This work has been essential to bringing new treatments and vaccines into clinical practice.

“This has only been possible because of the way the individual nurses and support staff working in research at UHSussex have risen to the challenge. They have had to work in totally unfamiliar ways, at evenings and weekends, often putting themselves on the frontline clinically to make sure patients have a chance to take part on COVID research and do these studies in record time.”

The COVID-19 research team at UHSussex is led by Dee Mullen and Lisa Barbour, who works alongside Dee and has worked at the Brighton hospital for 30 years, says the past 18 months have been the most testing of her career.

Lisa said: “We all know how important clinical research is in advancing clinical care within our specialist areas- HIV, Neurology, Oncology, Renal, Ophthalmology to name a few that all benefit patients with the very best options. COVID-19 research has been on another level, impacting not just in giving local people the best treatments but also for millions of people around the world.

UHSussex staff member Alan receiving his booster

“It’s very humbling what we have been able to achieve and is only possible due to everyone playing their part, working weekends and out of hours, assessing acutely unwell trial participants and preparing studies and clinics -from Research Administrators, Pharmacy, Nursing, Data officers, Laboratory staff, Governance teams and Investigators to the wider UHSussex teams. 

“It has been great to see so many people step up and want to volunteer and take part in all these trials, all these studies. It will help experts understand what is needed to combat this disease, and others like it.”

Pat Drake is one volunteer who opted to take part after hearing a call out for volunteers on the news.

A former research nurse herself, Pat, 71, said she had no hesitation in volunteering once she heard about the trial.

“I heard about the trial listening to the news on the radio. I got in touch and I was really pleased to be able to take part in the study and that it is taking place in Brighton as I live here.

“The research teams are doing incredible jobs and these trials are about trying to make sure that Covid doesn’t get any worse and so that we can find ways to combat it.

“I will do whatever I can to help now and in the future.”