A TOP Bradford doctor has spoken of his pride in leading a trial to find an effective Covid-19 vaccine, describing it as the "pinnacle of his research career".

Professor Dinesh Saralaya, a Respiratory Consultant at Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) is Director of the newly-established National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Patient Recruitment Centre, which is based at BRI and under the auspices of which, the late phase Novavax vaccine trial in Bradford was organised.

On the news that the Novavax coronavirus vaccine had been shown to be 89.3 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19 in participants who took part in the large-scale UK trials, Professor Saralaya said: “This is tremendous news. It’s fantastic. The more vaccines we have the better. Vaccines are the only way out of this pandemic and the way for us to get back to normal life.

“We now have another vaccine candidate with Novavax, and one which has an easy cold chain – it does not require stringent freezing conditions for storage, meaning it will be easier to roll out. It also contains no animal components, and I am looking forward to seeing this rolled out in the city once it gets its licence. We are now just waiting for its approval for use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

“I am proud and humbled to have been involved in this trial. I feel it is the pinnacle of my research career and I also feel I have achieved something I have always wanted to do; make a difference to the people of Bradford and this city.

“The people of Bradford can also be proud at being part of a world race to find an effective vaccine against Covid-19.”

The Novavax jab is also the first to show in trials that it is effective against the new virus variant found in the UK.

Professor Saralaya led the last phase trial in Bradford - one of only three regional and one of 20 national centres to deliver it. In Bradford, a total of 726 participants were recruited – making Bradford the third highest recruiting centre in the UK.

“Initially we were asked to recruit 500 participants which we achieved the fastest in the UK, and when Novavax increased the recruitment target, we were asked to recruit another 200, which we did – another 226 in fact. I am pleased that seven per cent of our participants were from the BAME community and I would now encourage more people from this community to take part in clinical trials and to have the vaccine when offered,” said Professor Saralaya.

He paid tribute to all those who had taken part in the trials which were held at the University of Bradford.

Dermot Bolton, 50, took part in the trial. He said today: "I was delighted to be accepted in to the Novavax trial late last year and to be given a chance to make a positive contribution to fighting the pandemic.

"The process has been great, very well run with fantastic friendly and supportive NHS staff. The University provided a brilliant venue in the Digital Health Enterprise Zone too so that it could all run safely and efficiently.

"We have good reason to be proud of the role Bradford Teaching Hospitals, the city and our citizens have played in playing a part in the worldwide fight against Covid-19. And we can all continue to do our bit by staying at home, and getting the vaccine when it's your turn."

Bradford West MP Naz Shah also joined the trial.

“I’m really, really pleased, it’s good news especially in a week which was so sad - we in Bradford reached the 1,000 death milestone," she said.

"It’s a glimmer of hope. Dr Saralaya and his team, I’m really grateful to them for all of the work they have done.”

Prof Saralaya added: “I want to thank all the participants for their time and support, the Trust and the University for their incredible help and support as well as say a huge thank you to the PRC,” he said.

“So many people have been instrumental in making the trials happen and in particular I am indebted to the PRC Clinical Manager, Karen Regan, who was our lead nurse at the trials centre, Professor John Wright, Director of Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) as well as the Trust’s Chief Executive, Mel Pickup, who gave us tremendous support from day one.”

He added that the trials were ‘blind’ in that neither clinicians nor participants knew whether they were given two doses of the vaccine or a placebo, 21 days apart.

“When we are given the green light we will start to ‘unblind’ the trial and we will see which participants have received the vaccine. Those who received the placebo will now be asked back to receive two doses of the Novavax vaccine 21 days apart. This means that all those who took part on the trial will ultimately have protection against this deadly virus.”

The Novavax phase three trials - the final stage before a vaccine is looked at by a regulator - enrolled more than 15,000 people aged between 18-84, of whom 27 per cent were older than 65, US firm Novavax said.

It has shown to be around 86 per cent effective at protecting against the new UK variant.

In the South African part of the trial, where most of the cases were the South African variant of the virus, the vaccine was 60 per cent  effective among those without HIV.

Stan Erck, chief executive of Novavax, said the results from the UK trial were "spectacular" and "as good as we could have hoped", while the efficacy in South Africa was "above people's expectations".