COVID-19 vaccine studies

Frequently asked questions

Here are the most commonly asked questions that members of the public ask about vaccine research. To find frequently asked questions you might have about what recent developments mean for the vaccine study you may be taking part in, visit the Latest Vaccine News page. More general questions and answers can be found on our COVID-19 page.

General

If you take part in a vaccine study, you may or may not be offered the vaccine. Vaccines are tested to make sure they're safe before being tested in people.

You'll need to visit the hospital, or other research site, a few times over 6 to 12 months.

At these visits, you should:

  • be told about the research study
  • have the chance to ask any questions
  • have blood tests

Between visits, you'll be asked to tell the research team about any symptoms you have. You may also be asked to self-monitor at home, for example by doing swabs or keeping an e-diary. There are many different types of research taking place to tackle COVID-19. Here's how to get involved.

Yes. Taking part in a study is the best way to help effective vaccines to be identified and made available to everyone earlier, and may even give you early access to protection.

We still need more research into the vaccines, to look at how best to protect communities and the population as a whole. Studies are underway or planned on:

  • new vaccines, so that there are enough vaccines to protect everyone
  • special groups such as pregnant women, children and young adults, and those with a weakened immune system
  • how best to use existing vaccines, looking at dose of vaccine, the interval between giving the first and second doses, and whether the brand/type of vaccine given for first and second doses makes a difference to effectiveness
  • giving flu vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine
  • booster vaccines or third doses
  • vaccines against new variants of COVID-19

You can still have an approved vaccine when this is available, even if you take part in a study and there are arrangements in place to make sure you are not put at a disadvantage for protection.

There are many COVID-19 vaccines in development at the moment. We don't have details on every ingredient yet, but many of the COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be vegetarian or vegan and as and when we start deploying vaccines in the NHS, individual details will be shared on individual vaccines.

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are the first vaccines to be given to people in the UK and they do not contain any components of animal origin. They are vegetarian, halal and kosher friendly.

Yes. Please do continue to travel to take part in vaccine trials, other health research or for other healthcare requirements. Volunteers taking part in vaccine trials are even more important in areas highly affected by COVID at the moment. If you have concerns about travel to your appointment or how you will be kept safe during the appointment, please contact the research team for more information.

Taking part doesn't work on a first come, first served basis. Most vaccine studies will take place at multiple sites, like hospitals, across the country. Those sites may be looking for different groups of people to take part, some areas may need more people of a certain age for example.

So whether you are contacted to take part will be based on many factors including where you live and information about you and your health. Researchers will look at your answers to the questions asked when you register to see if you're suitable for their trial, and contact you if they think you may match what they need.

In the UK, the research partner of the NHS is the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). If you sign up to be contacted about vaccine studies, only researchers on studies supported by NIHR - and who have applied to use the service and been approved - will be able to contact you. You can view a list of NIHR supported COVID-19 vaccine studies above.

When researchers from an approved study contact you, the first email will be from an official nhs.net email address. In the list above, you can select on an approved study to find out the official email address that you will receive an email from if you match a vaccine study. Check this list to ensure the email you receive notifying you that you may be eligible for a study is legitimate.

If you are interested in a study you receive an official email about and decide to get in touch with the study team and/or complete the online screening as directed in the email then the study team will be in touch with you directly. 

Researchers will never ask you for money or passwords. Always be alert to the risks of clicking on links or attachments. You can learn more about how to protect yourself from scam emails on the Action Fraud website.

Check back on Be Part of Research or contact the team if you are worried that an email may not be legitimate. Contact from researchers will be from one of the following email addresses: nhs.uk; nihr.ac.uk or ac.uk.

If you enrol on a vaccine study, the research team will collect information as part of that particular study. This information is held by the research team and any information that is collected about you will be kept confidential, in the same way as your medical records.

  • If your doctor or consultant is not the person who approached you about the study, it can be helpful for them to be told you are taking part in a study as they will be responsible for your day-to-day healthcare; but they can only be told with your permission.

  • Once the study has finished the results are usually published, and often presented at conferences. No name or any information that can identify you will be used in this presentation or any reports about the study.

If you want to know more about how the information collected about you by a study is used, speak to the study team: they are there to support you and answer any questions.

Safety

The safety of volunteers is our highest priority. All medicines that we take, and all vaccines that we give, carry risks. The whole purpose of research is to minimise those risks. As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. There are checks in place at every stage in the development of a vaccine and that is not being compromised.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), a globally leading regulatory agency, checks the safety, quality and effectiveness of all COVID-19 vaccines, and ensures no stage in the development process is skipped. Volunteers are carefully assessed before they take part, and are carefully monitored afterwards, with 24 / 7 access to doctors and nurses running the trial. This is so they can report anything they are concerned about or if they feel unwell for any reason.

We’re researching different types of vaccines against COVID-19. Some of these types of vaccines have been in use for a long time. This means we have a lot of experience and data on how they work, the immune responses they generate, and knowledge about their safety.
In any trial, it isn’t the research that takes a long time, it’s the steps beforehand: for example funding and approvals. What’s being sped up in the whole trial process this time is the funding, not the actual undertaking of the studies. Each trial has an independent safety committee that keeps the study under active review, including any reports of side effects. They can take immediate action such as suspending the trial, if any problems are found.

This short animation helps to explain how vaccines for COVID-19 have been developed in a short space of time.

Please sign up to register your interest. Researchers will be looking for lots of different people to take part in their studies to make sure it works for everyone. A number of studies will be looking for healthy people with no pre-existing conditions. Some studies may be looking specifically for people of different ages with an existing condition or a suppressed immune system, as they may respond differently to a vaccine. In some studies, there will be certain people who cannot be enrolled at this time, such as people who are being treated for cancer, who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who have certain immune conditions. However, increasingly there are studies that will be looking at people in these groups, when these can be safely trialled.

Registering with this service will allow researchers to contact you. When they do, they will discuss any pre-existing medical conditions you may have with you. You may also want to speak to your own health professional for further advice.

The vaccines themselves should not pose a risk to those you live with. If a household member is shielding and you are supporting them by staying at home to limit exposure to infection, then taking part in the vaccine study would require you to leave your home more frequently.

Vaccines are tested in a number of stages to make sure they are both safe and effective. You may be invited to participate in a study that is evaluating whether the vaccine is safe to be used for other people like you.  

The information you are given about any study you are invited to take part in will explain what stage the vaccine is at and how it has already been tested. You can consider this information when deciding whether to take part.

The number of people the vaccine has been tested on will depend on the stage of the study. You should be told how many people have been tested before you decide to take part in a study. 

There is no need to routinely self-isolate if you are taking part in a vaccine study. After some vaccines, you may experience a fever for one or two days.  If this were to happen, then you may need to self-isolate depending on the current public health policy

Common vaccine side effects include soreness, swelling and redness at the site of the vaccination and sometimes more general symptoms like tiredness, achy muscles and fever which may last for a few days and get better by themselves. The study team will give you further information about common side effects and how to manage them, and what to do if you experience any other side effects.

Taking part in human challenge trials is voluntary. In these trials, a few young, healthy volunteers may be exposed to small amounts of live virus after vaccination. Volunteers for any clinical trials only take part with their full consent, and all the facts of the trials are made available to them before they sign up. This ensures that volunteers do so with full knowledge of the facts and clinical risks.  

Participation

You do not have to tell family, friends or employers that you are part of a vaccine study. If you are admitted to hospital for any reason, we ask you to inform the staff caring for you. Please follow the study's instructions if you experience any symptoms of COVID or any unexpected side effects.

We don't want vaccine trial volunteers to be disadvantaged. When you are invited to receive an approved vaccine, the research team has a system to 'unblind' you and give you advice on whether to have a licensed vaccine as well as the trial vaccine.

Joining a research study should not affect life or critical illness insurance cover that you already have. You don’t generally have to tell your insurer that you are taking part in a research study, or the results of any investigations found during the study.

This is because life insurance is long term and continues until either you cancel it or make a claim. It is always best to check the terms and conditions of your policy with your insurer. If you are taking out a new policy, most of the time, insurance companies will ask about your health and your medical treatment, but won't be worried about the fact you are taking part in a study. But if they ask, you need to tell them, and answer all questions as fully and accurately as you can.

No, not generally, as taking part in the COVID vaccine study does not increase your risks. But do speak to the study team if you have travel planned, as it may affect when appointments and tests are booked. When applying for travel insurance, insurers will ask questions about a person's health in order to make an accurate assessment.

Customers should answer any questions in the insurance application to the best of their knowledge. The insurer will ask about any pre-existing health conditions and associated medical treatments. Participation in a clinical trial is not something that would be expected to lead to increased premiums or insurance refusal as it does not carry increased risk above that associated with the condition under trial. So, whilst having a condition itself may attract additional costs to travel insurance, participation in the clinical trial should not result in any further costs or penalties.   

The idea of a ‘vaccine passport’ is to allow people who have had a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine to demonstrate this, perhaps when travelling, working or doing some activities, with the idea that they are immune from having or transmitting the disease. There is no vaccine passport scheme in place in the UK as yet, and discussion as to whether this is appropriate, as vaccines may not fully prevent someone passing on COVID-19.

If such a scheme were to progress, we will work with the Government, NHS and those organising the different studies to help ensure that people who’ve taken part in a trial are not at a disadvantage. This might mean organising letters from study teams to a participant’s GP, confirming that a full course of an effective vaccine had been given (when this evidence is available). We are also in discussions about whether this can be incorporated into digital NHS records and any digital passport developed.

Yes, if this is recommended for you. You may need to wait between one to four weeks between receiving the flu vaccine and receiving any COVID vaccine, but you can still enroll in the study and discuss timing with the research team. Do not put off your flu vaccination to take part in the COVID trial, as it will give you important protection.

Not generally. This is because you may have some immunity that means you are less likely to contract COVID, with or without a vaccine, and could sway the research findings. You can still sign up to take part in COVID and other healthcare research though. There are many other trials underway that you may be suitable for, including some on the long-term after effects on having had COVID. Find out more on the How to Get Involved section of the Be Part of Research website.

Please also come forward for an approved COVID vaccine when you are invited to, as long as it is 28 days since your positive COVID test.