THOUSANDS of people who took part in a Covid vaccine trial will now be able to have two further doses of an alternative after a huge backlash, the Government has today confirmed.

Those who were signed up to the Novavax trial - including hundreds in the North East - will now be able to get both doses of the Pfizer jab after being left in "limbo" following delays to approval.

It comes just weeks after The Northern Echo revealed there were significant delays facing the vaccine, which if approved would be made in Billingham after sources suggested it may not be ready until mid-2022.

Read more: Teesside made Novavax Covid-19 vaccine faces long delays

Meanwhile, hundreds of volunteers who signed up to the trial at the University Hospital of Hartlepool had been left unable to travel abroad, and faced being unprotected, after being told they could not have an alternative dose. 

The Northern Echo:

But on Friday, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Department of Health confirmed that those who took part in trial should be offered two doses of the Pfizer jab, with eight weeks between the doses.

Read more: Mum's fear that she could give Covid to vulnerable daughter after taking part in vaccine trial

The offer of two doses of Pfizer, which is being rolled out from next week, means people will be able to travel and have two doses of an approved Covid vaccine their record, as well as on the NHS app.

People will be able to get their extra vaccines following a discussion with an investigator from the Novavax clinical trials team.


If people from the Novavax study are eligible for the Pfizer Covid booster jab currently being rolled out across the UK, the booster dose can count as the first of the two doses that are needed for travel.

The Northern Echo:

Towards the end of last month, one Hartlepool woman spoke out on her fear of passing on Covid to her vulnerable daughter-in-law after being left unsure of her level of protection.

Pam Shurmer, who took part in the trial at Hartlepool hospital, had received both of her Novavax doses almost a year ago and had been told she may not be able to have an alternative.

At the time, Mrs Shurmer said the family also faced being unable to travel on a £4,000 holiday as Novavax had not been approved, and so was not currently recognised by countries abroad.

Calling on the Government to take action last month, she said: "Me and my husband went to join this trial thinking we were doing a good thing – we have now had our freedoms taken away and my family put at risk."

Just days before Mrs Shurmer raised concerns, The Echo was made aware of several further families in the North East who had been left "concerned" after taking part in the trial.

Read more: We've been abandoned': Those who took part in North East vaccine trial hit out

Meanwhile, a joint-letter to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid urging him to intervene in the days and allow volunteers seek alternative protection was signed by hundreds of volunteers across the UK.

Freedom for volunteers

As the news broke today England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: “Covid-19 vaccine trials have been absolutely integral to our response to the virus, and as a result we now have our renowned vaccination programme, which continues to save lives. I urge as many people as possible to continue contributing to these trials.

“The measures we have taken will allow UK Covid-19 vaccine trial participants to travel freely overseas once they have had the additional vaccinations.

“Those volunteers now have the flexibility to make a decision for themselves so they can, for example, visit loved ones abroad.

“We should be very clear that the results from these trials benefit the whole world, and it has to be said that if more countries around the world had reciprocated by allowing UK volunteers to enjoy fully vaccinated status for overseas travel, these measures would not have been necessary.

“As a separate issue, those in trials who are eligible for boosters should receive the booster dose in order to ensure the highest possible protection over winter.”

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland health teams are expected to follow suit for vaccine trial participants in their regions.

Around 21,000 people in England are thought to have been given a vaccine not yet approved for widespread use, including Novavax and Valneva.


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