How Blackpool is again at the centre of Covid war efforts - and how it could save countless lives

The first person to be accepted onto a Covid-19 vaccine trial is taking part in the study in Layton, it has been confirmed.

Monday, 5th October 2020, 11:18 am
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 11:36 am

Thousands of people have already volunteered to take part in the study, which got underway last week, with the unnamed UK first taking part in their initial session at Layton Medical Centre in Kingscote Drive.

Special clinics are also being held at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

Dr Rebecca Clark, GP at the Layton practice, said it had been "so lovely to hear people engaging with clinical research desperate to do their bit where they feel otherwise helpless", and said it had "restored my faith in humanity".

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The phase three trial, run by US biotech firm Novavax, signifies the last testing hurdle before the jab can be officially classed as safe and effective.

It is 'double-blind', which means volunteers - as well as medics - won't know if they have been given the potential vaccine or a saltwater placebo.

Around 500 chosen participants are being asked to take part in at least six visits over the course of around 13 months for antibody tests and to see if they've contracted Covid-19.

They don't get paid but can claim back certain travel expenses.

Dr Clark said: "Every time they get a cough or a cold during the trial they would need to come in to be seen and if volunteers develop Covid-19 symptoms then swabs would be taken and they would be tested immediately.”

Dr Angela Parker from the Vic's Patient Recruitment Centre, which is also taking part in the study, said: "It takes a huge amount of effort to conduct a study of this size and at this pace and I am extremely proud of what we have achieved so far.

"It is heartening to see how many volunteers across the Fylde coast have indicated their interest in taking part.”

A total of 10,000 volunteers across the UK will be invited to take part in the study, which needs a large number of people to test the safety and effectiveness of the potential vaccine.

The Government has ordered 60 million doses, which will be made in County Durham if the trial, which is taking place at 18 sites, including in Greater Manchester, London, Glasgow, and Belfast, is a success.

Anyone aged between 18 and 84 can register to take part in the trial, which is open to anyone.

A Covid vaccine is seen by many as the only way out of the current crisis, which has claimed more than one millions lives around the world, including 250 on the Fylde coast.

The resort was also at the centre of a breakthrough that has had global significance since being announced in June, with a cheap steroid now being given to seriously ill coronavirus patients to save their lives.

Jason Cupitt, the doctor in charge of the Vic's Covid-19 intensive care unit, led the trial locally and said he was "surprised" at how effective the drug - dexamethasone - is.

It is said to cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and a fifth for those on oxygen.

"I must admit I was sceptical at first, but I have been delighted with the results," Dr Cupitt, who helped pulled the level at this year's Illuminations Switch-On, said.