Jonathan Stoddart

Working on the Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine study

Hello, I’m Jonathan Stoddart a Clinical Trials Manager at Newcastle Hospitals, where I have worked for the last 11 years. In my usual role I work within the Oncology & Haematology trials team based at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care but more recently I have also been working as part of the team to support the delivery of urgent public health studies in response to COVID 19.

In April we were proud to be selected as one of the UK sites to run the Oxford Vaccine study giving people in our region the opportunity to help in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine. The main focus of the Phase I, II and III studies is to assess whether the vaccine is going to work against COVID-19, if it won’t cause unacceptable side effects and if it induces good immune responses.

The trial was a huge challenge to plan, set up and run, not necessarily due to the complexity of the trial itself, as we are experienced in delivering complex research studies throughout our research teams but more the speed, logistics and scale required in a time where a desire to find a vaccine quickly is a national and worldwide priority. A usual drug trial would be set up and planned over a series of months, whereas the team delivered this within 2 weeks, which is a great credit to everyone involved.

The days were long, there was sweat, tears as well as laughs and over 7 days of recruitment based at the Clinical Research Facility at the Royal Vitoria Infirmary, we recruited over 400 participants from across the region, of which a large proportion were staff from within our trust.

To be able to run a trial at this scale and speed we truly worked as team, with vital support from many departments including Pharmacy, Communications, Labs, I.T, Medical records and the NJRO all coming together to deliver. Personally, I found working on this project challenging, rewarding and ultimately a great experience having had the chance to work alongside many fantastic people on such a relevant project.

“A usual drug trial would be set up and planned over a series of months, whereas the team delivered this within 2 weeks, which is a great credit to everyone involved.”

Moving forwards and building on our experience we are planning on opening and recruiting more COVID-19 vaccine studies in Newcastle and across the region. To be able to facilitate the delivery of these studies alongside our desire to restart our existing research portfolio across the trust we have acquired a new vaccine research home on Ward 11 at the Freeman Hospital. Work is currently underway to prepare the ward to become a dedicated vaccine research hub, giving us an excellent platform to deliver future vaccine related research with the next vaccine study due to open in November.

As well as the work happening here in Newcastle, regionally the CRN are supporting development of other vaccine capability for COVID in the North East and North Cumbria. There is current vaccine research happening at the University Hospital of Hartlepool as part of the Durham Tees Valley Research Alliance where they are delivering the Novavax trial and a further 2 studies also planned in other regional hubs run from Northumbria Healthcare and Newcastle. These sites are all developing currently with staff being offered to support them from other trusts in the region. We already we have primary care nurses and HCAs from the CRN supporting us here in Newcastle, the same in DTVRA and staff have been offered from CNTW, TEWV, STS and Gateshead to join this regional effort. I’d like to thank all volunteers who have taken part in this vital research and thank all the staff who worked so flexibly and so hard across so many departments to make this research possible.