Join the 'common goal' in beating Covid-19 by signing up to vaccine trials, says Leeds professor

A Leeds professor who is running the vaccine trial programme across the region has said finding a vaccine “is the only thing which will get us back to normal” as he appealed to people’s altruistic side to sign up as volunteers.

Sunday, 23rd August 2020, 4:45 pm

Prof Alistair Hall, clinical director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)'s Yorkshire and Humber’s clinical research network, admits he “hates Covid with a passion” and is himself among the thousands in Leeds who have already signed up for the trials, which could start as soon as October.

Earlier this month Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) launched a city-wide vaccine trial delivery team with the aim of recruiting 250 volunteers a day across the region.

And within the first couple of weeks, figures showed Leeds was the highest-recruiting local authority in the UK for initial sign-ups, with 3,940 registered by August 19.

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Professor Alistair Hall, clinical director of Yorkshire and Humber's Clinical Research Network (CRN) and a consultant at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. Picture Tony Johnson

Prof Hall said there are about ten promising Covid-19 vaccines in development and it is vital to have a large cohort of people - of all backgrounds - ready to take part “so we can beat the virus together”.

While he understands some may be “hesitant” to sign up, he hopes once the trials get going that this might change.

“I think half the population is in two minds. But the fact that [the other] 50 per cent are ready is great. They are the ones who can take part. I’m guessing that the other half who are hesitant will see those who are vaccinated are all fine, and it might change their minds.”

He added: “I signed up straight away. I have been involved in vaccines all my life. As a doctor - I get the flu jab every year, I was brought up with vaccines as a 60s child, I was immunised against smallpox, TB, which killed an aunt of mine - it’s been throughout my life.

Professor Alistair Hall, clinical director of Yorkshire and Humber's Clinical Research Network (CRN) and a consultant at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. Picture Tony Johnson

“I have signed up for this because I feel I should be involved in research.”

He added: “For me the worst that happens is it just doesn’t work. We have had a vaccine and we are not immune to Covid. But then we’re in that position now.

“People who think that way are going to join the study.”

On the plus side, he says, those individuals also stand to “get vaccinated six months earlier than anyone else”.

Prof Hall is also a consultant at LTHT and was among those on the front line in the battle with Covid during its peak - something which helps spur him on in his research.

He said: “I hate it with a passion. But I’m like that with most diseases.

“I went into medicine because it upsets me that people get sick and die - most doctors and nurses feel that way, that’s why they go into the profession.

“I would like it to disappear today or tomorrow by some miracle but given that’s not going to happen, we have to do research to find solutions and that’s what we’re doing.”

He added: “It’s dangerous because it’s weak. If it was a strong virus, we would get it and within an hour would go home [to be poorly] and wouldn’t infect everyone.

“But it isn’t like that.

“People walk around for four days or 40 days and feel fine because it’s weak. And certain people have a different reaction to it and become very unwell.”

He said now is the time to do all we can to be ready to go with the vaccine trials - as the “concern” over a second wave this winter still looms large.

“I would like that never to materialise but there’s the concern that as we loosen social distancing and try to get back to normal and as winter approaches and the flu season starts, we may find ourselves in as difficult a position in winter as we were in spring.

“We have a few more treatments now [than we had at the start] but the only thing that really gets us back to normal is a vaccine.

“That’s why we are doing it.”

Prof Hall said it has been inspiring to see everyone share a common goal in working together to beat the virus.

“The common purpose is the best thing to come out of it. I believe in that. Co-operation is better than competition. I think it’s good when we look after each other and work as a team.”

He added: “Yorkshire has a great team spirit, and attitude and is community minded. It’s very apparent that at a time like this people are being very altruistic and matter of fact and constructive about these things.”

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Thank you

Laura Collins