Northern Ireland has been chosen as one of the regions to take part in a major UK trial of a potential vaccine to help in the fight against Covid-19.
Health officials are seeking 350 volunteers from Northern Ireland to participate in the trial, which is expected to start by the end of the week.
Health Minister Robin Swann urged the public to participate.
“The importance of finding a vaccine to help in the battle against this virus cannot be overstated,” he added.
“Despite the magnificent efforts of our health service and the amazing response of society as a whole we remain on a knife edge as we seek to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
“As we continue to put in place all possible measures there’s never been a more important time for health research studies into the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“Currently there are over 30 vaccine trials taking place around the world in an effort to discover as soon as possible which will be safe and effective.
“It is vital that Northern Ireland joins this important worldwide effort.”
A Northern Ireland Covid-19 Vaccine Research Delivery Group, led by the HSC research and development division of the Public Health Agency, has been set up to deliver Covid-19 vaccine trials in Northern Ireland.
The trial is being run by Novavax.
The trial will take place in sites across the UK and it is anticipated that the first participants will be recruited in Northern Ireland at the start of October.
Dr Janice Bailie, assistant director of the research and development division, said: “Covid-19 vaccine trials are essential to identify which vaccines are both safe and effective, so that wide scale vaccination can start as soon as possible.
“There are different types of vaccines, and we don’t know which one will work best to protect people from catching Covid-19.
“It might be that different vaccines are needed for different groups of people, and it’s only through vaccine trials we will find this out.”
Up to 350 participants in Northern Ireland will be recruited from the UK Vaccine Registry, which was launched in July.
Potential participants who have signed up to the Vaccine Registry to be approached to take part in a vaccine trial, will be invited to undergo an assessment to determine whether they are eligible for the trial.
The study aims to recruit adults from all parts of society, especially those who are more likely to benefit from a vaccine including those over the age of 65, those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME), and those who have face-to-face contact with the public at work including healthcare workers, delivery personnel, transport workers, and those in retail.
If you are from one of these groups, and interested in participating in the Northern Ireland trial you can sign up at nhs.uk/researchcontact.