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World's first 'variant-proof' booster vaccine starts trial in UK

Trials of a potentially variant-beating booster jab are under way in Manchester.

Retired nurse Helen Clarke, 64, and her husband Andrew, 63, were the first to receive the new GRT-R910 drug.

It is hoped the jab will boost the immune response of the first vaccines to fight off future Covid variants.

Mrs Clarke said: ‘I used to work in the NHS and had been involved in research as a nurse in the past.

‘We’ve been amazed how quickly a vaccine was made and approved, and that couldn’t happen without volunteers.’

Mr Clarke added: ‘Because we’re both retired, we feel we had a reasonably easy lockdown, but we know it wasn’t the same for everybody.

‘We feel that this is perhaps a small part we can play in helping to make things change.’

The trial is expected to recruit another 20 volunteers aged 60 and over, with results expected early next year.

Professor Andrew Ustianowski, one of the clinical leads at Manchester University, said: ‘We now know the immune response to first-generation vaccines can wane, particularly in older people.

‘Coupled with the prevalence of emerging variants, there is a clear need for continued vigilance to keep Covid-19 at bay.

‘We think GRT-R910 as a booster vaccination will elicit strong, durable and broad immune responses, which are likely to be critical in maintaining protection of this vulnerable elderly population who are particularly at risk of hospitalisation and death.’

The research is being done through collaboration between US pharmaceutical company Gritstone, The University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.

The GRT-R910 jab is a self-amplifying mRNA second generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccine – or SAM for short.

SAM vaccines could avoid the need for repeat jabs or lower the number of required doses.

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