People who took part in trials of Covid vaccines which haven’t been approved yet will be offered two doses of another vaccine from next week, health officials say.
This means that more than 15,000 volunteers who received Novavax or other immunizations will be able to travel abroad for the first time.
Between the third and fourth doses, an eight-week gap is required.
The NHS Covid app will also be updated to allow travel after the additional two doses.
The move, announced by the Department of Health in England, was developed with the assistance of the UK’s vaccine committee and clinical trial investigators.
Health teams in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit in their respective regions.
Although people who signed up for Covid vaccine trials are considered fully vaccinated in the UK, even if the vaccine has not been approved by the UK regulator, many other countries refuse to let them in.
And many volunteers complained that they were put at a disadvantage due to no fault of their own.
‘I’m delighted – we have a trip planned with friends’
Darren Green, aged 51 and his wife Linda, 59, who live in south Wales, were volunteers in the Novavax trial.
Linda was given a placebo instead of the vaccine, and she has since received two doses of an approved Covid jab, allowing her to travel.
Darren, on the other hand, is not because he received Novavax during the trial.
It’s a relief for him to know he can now get the travel vaccines.
“I was moved to tears when I heard the news. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.
“I’ll be able to do everything that other vaccinated people can do.” We’re going on a trip with some friends. I was afraid I’d have to cancel.”
“Apart from feeling a bit like a pin cushion, I’m absolutely delighted,” Darren said of the possibility of needing more doses.
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, stated that when volunteers began participating in vaccine trials, the UK had no idea which vaccines would be successful or that vaccines would be required for international travel.
He stated that the UK wanted to support them because of “the sacrifice they made to help others.”
They must be able to travel “for deeply personal and important reasons,” he stated.
“We hope that it will be a solution for triallists, as they so richly deserve,” he said.
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Vaccine trial volunteers, beginning with those who received Novavax, will receive one-on-one counselling before deciding whether to receive additional doses of an approved Covid vaccine. Pfizer will be given to Novavax volunteers in two doses, eight weeks apart.
If they don’t have a travel deadline, they can choose to wait for the vaccine they’ve already received to be approved in the coming months.
People in the trials, like others in the UK, will be offered a booster jab if they are eligible.
There have been no trials on the safety of administering four doses of different Covid vaccines, but vaccine experts say they “do not expect any major safety concerns.”
In January, UK trials of the Novovax vaccine showed it was nearly 90% effective but the company has not yet applied for approval.
The United Kingdom has ordered 60 million doses of the vaccine, which was scheduled to be manufactured in north-east England.
The government stated that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the vaccine taskforce were working with vaccine manufacturers to ensure that their vaccines were approved as soon as possible if they met the necessary safety and quality standards.
Approximately 52,000 people are taking part in clinical trials across the United Kingdom, with 21,000 receiving a vaccine that has not yet been approved for widespread use. The majority of people in this group are volunteers for the Novavax and Valneva vaccine trials.