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Further 220 Covid cases as health minister hopes to find 350 volunteers for vaccine trial in NI

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There have been a further 220 Covid-19 cases reported in Northern Ireland over the past 24 hours, according to the Department of Health.

It brings the seven day total to 1,513 cases and 10,949 overall. There have been 341,633 people tested to date.

The seven day infection rate per 100,000 people in the ABC borough has dropped from 68.3 to 53.8, however, that rate has increased from 76.0 to 87.1 in Newry, Mourne and Down.

The death toll remains at 578, with 51 people currently in hospital as a result of the coronavirus, six of whom are in intensive care units.

In the Southern Trust area, six patients have been discharged in the last seven days.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced that Northern Ireland has been chosen as one of the regions to take part in a major UK trial of a potential vaccine to help in the fight against COVID-19.

It is hoped that up to 350 volunteers from Northern Ireland will participate in the trial, which is expected to commence by the end of the week and the announcement is accompanied by an appeal for further volunteers to join those who have already signed up.

The Minister said: “The importance of finding a vaccine to help in the battle against this virus cannot be overstated.

“Despite the magnificent efforts of our health service and the amazing response of society as a whole we remain on a knife edge as we seek to protect ourselves and our loved ones. As we continue to put in place all possible measures there’s never been a more important time for health research studies into the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Currently there are over 30 vaccine trials taking place around the world in an effort to discover as soon as possible which will be safe and effective. It is vital that Northern Ireland joins this important world-wide effort.

“I am delighted that the public in Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to take part in this important trial which has the potential to discover a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. Already almost 5,000 people who are willing to be approached to take part in a trial have signed up to the Vaccine Registry and I would encourage more people here to join today to help this international effort.”

A Northern Ireland COVID-19 Vaccine Research Delivery Group led by HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency has been established to coordinate a regional approach to delivering COVID-19 vaccine trials in Northern Ireland.

The trial being run by Novavax will be supported in Northern Ireland by the NI Clinical Research Network, which is funded by HSC R&D Division.

The trial will take place in sites across the UK including in Northern Ireland and it is anticipated that the first participants will be recruited here at the start of October.

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of HSC R&D Division of the Public Health Agency, said: “COVID-19 vaccine trials are essential to identify which vaccines are both safe and effective, so that wide scale vaccination can start as soon as possible.

“There are different types of vaccines, and we don’t know which one will work best to protect people from catching COVID-19. It might be that different vaccines are needed for different groups of people, and it’s only through vaccine trials we will find this out.”

Up to 350 participants in Northern Ireland will be recruited from the UK Vaccine Registry, which was launched in July. Potential participants who have signed up to the Vaccine Registry to be approached to take part in a vaccine trial, will be invited to undergo an assessment to determine whether they are eligible for the trial.

The study aims to recruit adults from all parts of society, especially those who are more likely to benefit from a vaccine including those over 65 year old, those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (BAME), and those who have face to face contact with the public at work e.g. healthcare workers, delivery personnel, transport workers, and those in retail.

If you are from one of these groups, and interested in participating in the Northern Ireland trial you can sign up at: www.nhs.uk/researchcontact.

More information about the trial and other opportunities to take part in COVID-19 and other research can be found at www.bepartofresearch.uk

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