Janssen Covid vaccine: Major trial launches in UK

16 November 2020, 10:38 | Updated: 16 November 2020, 10:39

Final trials for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Janssen will get underway soon
Final trials for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Janssen will get underway soon. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The UK will be the first country to run final-stage trials of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by a company owned by Johnson and Johnson.

The phase-three trial of the vaccine from pharmaceutical company Janssen starts on Monday and will be the first of its two-dose study - similar to the drug being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The jab has already undergone phase one and two trials, and analysis of the single-dose study suggests the vaccine induces a robust immune response and is generally well-tolerated.

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Researchers are now looking to recruit around 6,000 UK participants at 17 sites across the country for its final phase.

Sites include Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Leicester, Sheffield, Manchester, Dundee and Belfast.

Recruitment into the study will complete in March 2021 and the trial will last for 12 months.

The Janssen vaccine will be the third to be trialled in the UK, along with the Oxford/AstraZeneca candidate and another from US biotech company Novavax.

So far around 25,000 people in the UK have participated in vaccine trials, and more than 310,000 have signed up to be contacted indicated their willingness to take part in clinical studies by signing up to the NHS vaccine research registry.

Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK's Vaccine Taskforce, said: "Because we've got this national citizen registry of volunteers willing to go into clinical trials, it has accelerated our ability to enrol trials.

"And that means that the UK is a very favourable place to come in and run studies and so Novavax has expanded that study, and of course Janssen has come to the UK for the first, I think, of its two-dose study.

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The UK has managed to secure 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine if the trial is successful.

Professor of paediatric immunology and infectious diseases at the Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Saul Faust, said: "We just don't know how each of these vaccines is going to behave and which are going to generate the better short and long-term immunity.

"And we can't be certain that vaccine supply will be efficient and effective and secure from any one manufacturer, wherever it's being made in the world."

Professor Faust, who is principal investigator of the Janssen trial in the UK, said there are 40,000 people on the NHS vaccine registry who are in the postcode areas around the vaccine centres for the study.

They are expected to be contacted in the second half of this week and invited to take part in the study.

The vaccine candidate Janssen is trialling is an adenoviral vaccine, similar to the one Oxford University is working on.

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These studies are based on weakened versions of adenoviruses - a group of viruses that typically infect membranes of the eyes, respiratory tract, urinary tract, intestines and nervous system - including the common cold.

The UK researchers say the timing of results for their study will depend on global recruitment to the trial and the incidence of Covid-19.

They add that recent vaccine trials suggest it generally takes six to nine months to get an outcome, but it could be longer for trials starting out now.