Northern Ireland to take part in major UK vaccine trial

Date published: 28 September 2020

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced that Northern Ireland has been chosen as one of the regions to take part in a major UK trial of a potential vaccine to help in the fight against COVID-19.

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It is hoped that up to 350 volunteers from Northern Ireland will participate in the trial, which is expected to commence by the end of the week and the announcement is accompanied by an appeal for further volunteers to join those who have already signed up.

The Minister said: “The importance of finding a vaccine to help in the battle against this virus cannot be overstated.  Despite the magnificent efforts of our health service and the amazing response of society as a whole we remain on a knife edge as we seek to protect ourselves and our loved ones. As we continue to put in place all possible measures there’s never been a more important time for health research studies into the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently there are over 30 vaccine trials taking place around the world in an effort to discover as soon as possible which will be safe and effective. It is vital that Northern Ireland joins this important world-wide effort.

“I am delighted that the public in Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to take part in this important trial which has the potential to discover a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. Already almost 5000 people who are willing to be approached to take part in a trial have signed up to the Vaccine Registry and I would encourage more people here to join today to help this international effort.”

A Northern Ireland COVID-19 Vaccine Research Delivery Group led by HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency has been established to coordinate a regional approach to delivering COVID-19 vaccine trials in Northern Ireland. The trial being run by Novavax will be supported in Northern Ireland by the NI Clinical Research Network, which is funded by HSC R&D Division.

The trial will take place in sites across the UK including in Northern Ireland and it is anticipated that the first participants will be recruited here at the start of October.

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of HSC R&D Division of the Public Health Agency, said: “COVID-19 vaccine trials are essential to identify which vaccines are both safe and effective, so that wide scale vaccination can start as soon as possible.

“There are different types of vaccines, and we don't know which one will work best to protect people from catching COVID-19. It might be that different vaccines are needed for different groups of people, and it’s only through vaccine trials we will find this out.”

Up to 350 participants in Northern Ireland will be recruited from the UK Vaccine Registry, which was launched in July.  Potential participants who have signed up to the Vaccine Registry to be approached to take part in a vaccine trial, will be invited to undergo an assessment to determine whether they are eligible for the trial.

The study aims to recruit adults from all parts of society, especially those who are more likely to benefit from a vaccine including those over 65 year old, those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (BAME), and those who have face to face contact with the public at work e.g. healthcare workers, delivery personnel, transport workers, and those in retail.

If you are from one of these groups, and interested in participating in the Northern Ireland trial you can sign up at:

More information about the trial and other opportunities to take part in COVID-19 and other research can be found at

Notes to editors: 

  1. In April 2020, the UK Government established a Vaccine Taskforce (VTF) to speed-up the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine. The VTF provides support on a number of levels including research and development of vaccines within the UK.
  2. The UK Vaccine Task Force has provided £500k of pump-prime funding to support vaccine studies in NI. The trial is being funded by Novavax. It will be supported in NI by the NI Clinical Research Network which is funded by HSC R&D Division from DoH R&D fund.
  3. Clinical trials in the UK have an excellent safety record and they play a vital role in the development of new treatments and care. Participating in clinical research studies is statistically very low risk and safe. Robust protocols and safety procedures are in place to protect participants. The Health Research Authority is responsible for making sure research is ethically reviewed and approved across the UK. Patient safety is of paramount importance and trials are continually monitored to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks.
  4. A Northern Ireland COVID-19 Vaccine Research Delivery Group led by HSC R&D Division has been established to coordinate a regional approach to delivering COVID-19 vaccine trials in NI. All relevant stakeholders including the Clinical Research Network, Trust R&D Offices, HSC R&D Division, HSC Health Protection, Clinical Research Facilities, Research Pharmacy, Research-active GPs, the Regional Pathology Network and university staff are working together to plan the delivery of a trial. 
  5. Health and Social Care Research & Development Division (HSC R&D) continues to play their full part in the battle against COVID-19, and hopes that some of the research funded in Northern Ireland will help to improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients at home and across the globe.
  6. For more information on HSC R&D, please visit:
  7. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email:
  8. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt.
  9. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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