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Wales plays key role in finding safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine

Published: 30 December 2020

The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) following a global trial, in which Welsh participants and healthcare professionals played a key role. 

A collaboration between Public Health Wales, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Health and Care Research Wales, and the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University, took part in phase 2/3 of the vaccine trial sponsored by the University of Oxford and funded by CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) UK Research and Innovation. 

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board recruited almost 450 participants to the Oxford Vaccine Group COVID-19 vaccine trial. Volunteers aged 18 and over were invited to take part in the trial. Many participants were from health and care settings, including staff in hospitals, GP practices, pharmacy, physiotherapy, community care and other non-clinical professions within secondary care who were deemed at risk of exposure to coronavirus. 

Dr Chris Williams, Principal Investigator for Public Health Wales and lead for the vaccine trial in Wales, said:

“I’m very pleased that this vaccine is now an approved part of the response to prevent COVID-19 infection. We have been monitoring the waves of infection and the terrible individual impact this can have. This vaccine will be able to prevent these hospitalisations and deaths, through prioritising the most vulnerable and those working to care for them. 

“It has been a great honour to work with the Oxford Vaccine Group on this study, and also with the excellent teams in Wales delivering the study in challenging circumstances. I’d like to also thank the trial participants for their commitment to the study.” 

Jeanette Wells, Assistant Director of Research and Development at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said:

“This is the best news we could have received at the end of a very turbulent year.  The Aneurin Bevan University Health Board research team have been overwhelmed by the support of so many people. Without our local collaborators new and old and of course the volunteer participants our contribution to this study would not have been possible. 

“We are particularly proud to have been able to contribute to the national effort in this way, and very much look forward to seeing this vaccine deployed. Hopefully now we can look forward to brighter, happier, healthier and more prosperous New Year.” 

Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Support and Delivery at Health and Care Research Wales, which is nationally co-ordinating research and study-set up in Wales, said: 

“Our research community is working hard to provide the evidence we need to fight this pandemic and the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is an important step forward. 

“We have two further vaccines being tested in Wales right now, with more trials due to be set up in the coming weeks and months. This research, alongside the other COVID-19 studies taking place will help us to not only protect the most vulnerable but also to provide the best care possible for those who become ill. 

“I’m proud of the role our researchers in Wales have played in this UK-wide effort and I would like to thank the participants too who have volunteered. Together we can make a real difference.” 

Tracey Cooper, the chief executive of Public Health Wales (PHW), said: 

“I am so proud that Public Health Wales has been able to support the development of this vaccine.  Knowing that our organisation has been able to play a role in the delivery of this precious resource to protect communities in Wales and beyond is a tremendous honour and I pay tribute to my colleagues who have worked so hard to mobilise this vital work so quickly. Their dedication and hard work is truly inspiring and I thank them all.” 

Professor Kerry Hood, Director of the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University said:

“The approval of this vaccine represents the vast amount of work conducted by a number of people and provides hope for many as we can vaccinate as many people as possible as we move forward in 2021.”