More than 1,000 Bedford residents volunteer for coronavirus vaccine studies
Of those who came forward, the largest proportion were aged between 40 and 59
The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is under way across the UK, giving hope for a way out of the current crisis.
But developing a vaccine wouldn't have been possible without a pool of volunteers from across the four nations, with more than 1,000 people from Bedford putting their name forward to be a part of the effort.
Researchers need people to take part in studies to find out which potential vaccine is most effective, and those involved are required to visit a hospital or research site every few months.
NHS Digital data shows 1,050 people from Bedford had volunteered to take part in coronavirus vaccine studies as of Thursday morning.
Of those, the largest proportion (42 per cent) were aged between 40 and 59, while 32 per cent were aged 60 to 79.
Across the East of England as a whole, 34,700 people had signed up by January 7, as the national army of volunteers reached 379,000.
The figure is rising daily, as people can still put themselves forward to potentially take part in clinical trials.
Not everyone who signs up will take part in a study, which normally involves answering questions, undergoing blood tests and injections – which could be the vaccine – and keeping a diary of any symptoms between hospital visits.
The NHS, which worked with the National Institute for Health Research to provide a volunteer service, said: "Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. They are designed so they do not give people the infection they're protecting against.
"Research into vaccines is the only way to find out which ones will work."
Two vaccines have so far been approved in the UK – the Pfizer vaccine, which was rolled out in December, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which came into use this week after approval at the end of 2020.
Speaking about the approval of the Oxford vaccine, Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England and co-lead of the NIHR, said: "There has been a considerable collective effort that has brought us to this point.
"The dedication and hard work of scientists, regulators and those who funded the research, such as the NIHR, United Kingdom Research and Innovation and United Kingdom Vaccine Network, and the willingness and selflessness of so many volunteers who took part in the vaccine trials were essential in delivering this safe and effective vaccine.
"They deserve our recognition and thanks.”
Downing Street confirmed this week that mass vaccination hubs at seven sites across England – including sports venues and London’s ExCel convention centre – will begin operations next week.
Hubs will be set up in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage, Number 10 said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes the rollout of vaccines will provide a route out of the third national lockdown.
In a televised address to the nation, he said people in the top four priority groups should receive a jab by mid-February.