Vaccines and prevention

Preventing infection and reducing the severity of the disease

COVID-19 prevention methods rely heavily on reducing person-to-person spread of the infection through:

  • social distancing
  • hand washing
  • face coverings
  • various degrees of lockdown

While this is reasonably effective, these measures severely restrict the movement of people, and their ability to socialise, and to work. Other forms of prevention (known as 'prophylaxis'), along with vaccination, could provide more sustainable ways to prevent infection and reduce the severity of the disease.

Since the beginning of the pandemic we have been working in partnership with UK Research and Innovation, and the Department of Health and Social Care. Through this partnership we have funded a number of COVID-19 studies to produce vaccinations, and identify effective preventative methods.  


Vaccines have the potential to help us beat coronavirus, and are the best way to protect people from COVID-19, potentially saving thousands of lives. Since the emergence of COVID-19 there has been a global quest to find vaccines, and NIHR researchers have been instrumental in developing and testing approved vaccines.

We have provided support for the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and continue to support trials of a number of other vaccines, developed by Novavax, Janssen and Imperial College London. These studies will help to ensure that data is available on a number of different vaccines and their safety and effectiveness, in order to protect the population.

Watch the following video to find out what it's like to take part in a vaccine trial.

 Transcript of the video, A vaccine for all countries, all communities - Satya's plea

Enabling faster recruitment

Working with the NHS, we aim to recruit over half a million people onto the NHS Covid-19 Vaccine Research Registry, which allows vaccine research teams to be put in touch with potentially interested participants. Researchers are looking for people from all backgrounds, ages, and parts of the UK, to take part in vaccine studies. This includes people with or without existing health conditions, to make sure that any vaccines developed will work for everyone.

To find out more about the Vaccine Research Registry, watch the short animation below.

Transcript for the video, Be Part Of COVID-19 Vaccine Research

NHS researchers in the UK are working together to find multiple vaccines against COVID-19. Thorough research is essential to make sure a vaccine is safe for the public, but this only works if we represent everyone in our community during clinical trials.

Before a vaccine can be made widely available it must undergo extensive testing, and be approved by a number of strict processes. Several potential vaccines are being tested in the UK and each vaccine study is different, so it's important they include as many people as possible from all backgrounds and ages. This gives researchers a better understanding of the effectiveness of each vaccine.

We are recruiting now for the next stage of clinical trials to find a vaccine against COVID-19.

Sign-up to be contacted for coronavirus vaccine studies


Vaccines are our best hope in terms of prevention, but not everyone will be able to be vaccinated. Some people with weaker immune systems may struggle to produce a suitable immune response. This can include elderly people, or those taking immuno-suppressant drugs because they’ve had an organ transplant, or as part of treatment for an ongoing chronic disease.

We are also looking at ways of preventing people from developing COVID-19 (known as ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis’), or of reducing the severity of disease if they have already been infected (known as ‘post-exposure prophylaxis’). Typically these are:

  • medicines
  • antibody preparations
  • nutrients that boost the body’s immune system

Protection for care home residents

The COVID-19 pandemic has particularly affected care homes and nursing homes. Preventing infection in residents, and reducing transmission of the virus within care homes, is dependent on infection control measures such as:

  • the use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • restricting freedoms such as movement around the home
  • the ability to have visitors

These can have a negative effect on the quality of life for residents, and their families.

The NIHR-funded PROTECT trial, overseen by the COVID-19 Prophylaxis Oversight Group (POG), will look at drugs that already show promise for treating COVID-19, but evaluate how well they can prevent or reduce the severity of COVID-19 in care home residents.

Examples of our research

Related pages