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Oxford experts to help study Covid vaccine responses in patients with impaired immune systems

They may be at increased risk of the more severe complications from coronavirus.

A new study is to investigate the immune response to Covid-19 vaccinations in patients with certain immunosuppressed conditions, including cancer.

People with cancer, inflammatory arthritis, diseases of the kidney or liver or who are having a stem cell transplant may be at increased risk of the more severe complications of Covid-19 infection.

These underlying medical conditions and the treatment that such patients receive as part of their care may weaken the immune system, making vaccines particularly welcome for these groups.

However researchers have said current evidence suggests that people with these medical conditions may not obtain optimal protection from established vaccines.

The new Octave trial will seek to better determine the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in these clinically at-risk patient groups.

The trial, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), is a collaborative research project involving groups in the Universities of Oxford, Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool, Imperial College London and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Professor Iain McInnes, Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow, who leads the Octave study, said: “We urgently need to understand if patient populations with chronic conditions such as cancer, inflammatory arthritis and kidney and liver disease are likely to be well-protected by current Covid-19 vaccines.

“The Octave study will give us invaluable new data to help us answer questions of this kind from our patients and their families.”

The study will investigate the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines being used in the UK in 2021, in up to 5,000 people within these patient populations.

Using a variety of state-of-the-art immune tests performed on blood samples taken before and/or after Covid-19 vaccination, researchers will determine patients’ Covid-19 immune response and therefore the likelihood that vaccines will fully protect these groups from infection.

Researchers have begun recruiting patients at sites across the UK and will compare results from the study group against control groups of healthy people, without these underlying diseases, who also received Covid-19 vaccines.

Scientists do not yet know how long Covid-19 vaccines provide immunity for, and there may be an ongoing need for vaccination against the disease for years to come.

Professor Fiona Watt, executive chair of the Medical Research Council, which funded the study, said: “This study is investigating the response to the new Covid-19 vaccines in people whose immune systems make them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and other infections.

“This will help ensure that those more at risk from infection receive the best protection possible.”

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