Vaccine clinical trial participants will be given the opportunity to receive two additional doses of an approved vaccine so they can travel abroad, the government has announced.
The majority of foreign countries currently do not recognise clinical trial volunteers as being fully vaccinated, instead requiring visitors to be jabbed with a COVID vaccine that is approved by regulators.
The additional doses will initially be offered to those taking part in the Novavax trial, before being rolled out to participants in other relevant trials within the coming weeks.
They will be offered two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from next week, with an eight-week interval between first and second doses.
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: "The measures we have taken will allow UK COVID-19 vaccine trial participants to travel freely overseas once they have had the additional vaccinations. Those volunteers now have the flexibility to make a decision for themselves so they can, for example, visit loved ones abroad.
"We should be very clear that the results from these trials benefit the whole world, and it has to be said that 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."
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There are around 52,000 people currently taking part in trials across the UK, with 21,000 given a vaccine not yet approved for deployment by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Around 15,000 of these have taken part trials for the Novavax vaccine.
Letters will be sent out to clinical trial participants shortly, outlining further details and the next steps.
Principle investigator of the Novavax clinical trial Professor Paul Heath said: "For too long the participants have been disadvantaged in terms of international travel because this vaccine is not yet approved for deployment – but trial participants now have the flexibility to receive booster doses, or additional doses for travel purposes, if they wish to."
People who have received both doses of a vaccine as part of a clinical trial will also be offered a booster jab, if eligible, in line with the wider boosters advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
The UK already recognises trial participants as fully vaccinated and they are able to use the NHS COVID Pass for domestic purposes.