LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will offer additional COVID-19 shots to participants in clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines that have not yet been approved in order to let them travel, the health ministry said on Friday.
People enrolled in trials for shots made by the likes of Novavax and Valneva have been in limbo, as the shots have not been approved, ruling them out of agreements to allow people to travel.
Britain recognises people vaccinated in vaccine trials as vaccinated for the purpose of both domestic and international certification.
It says it wants those who have received shots in trials, especially Novavax, whose phase III trial showed high-levels of protection, to be able to travel on the basis of the vaccine they have already received.
However, in the absence of willingness of international partners to reciprocate, the government said that trial participants would be offered two shots of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine if they needed to travel.
“The measures we have taken will allow UK COVID-19 vaccine trial participants to travel freely overseas once they have had the additional vaccinations,” deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said.
“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.”
While a third shot of different COVID-19 vaccines have been tested in different combinations, there is no data on a four shot that involves two doses of Novavax followed by two doses of Pfizer.
People in the trials will discuss their options with those running the trials before making an informed decision on whether they want the extra doses in order to travel.
Those in trials will also be offered a booster dose, if they are eligible, which can form the first dose of the new schedule for those who wish to travel.
The offer of extra vaccine doses to trial participants will begin next week, starting with the 15,000 people enrolled in the Novavax trial. Around 21,000 in all have been given a vaccine that is not yet approved.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kate Holton)