Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

NHS Grampian fighting RSV with jab trial – but can it tackle ‘vaccine fatigue’?

The Moderna product is being offered to organ transplant recipients and those with heart conditions, but are people getting "vaccine fatigue"?

NHS Grampian's Professor Roy Soiza is asking people to take part in a new vaccine trial. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
NHS Grampian's Professor Roy Soiza is asking people to take part in a new vaccine trial. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

It’s an illness which kills thousands of people every year in Britain and leads to tens of thousands of patients ending up in hospital beds.

Yet the chances are that most readers won’t be familiar with the acronym RSV – respiratory syncytial virus – which causes coughs and colds during the winter, and can be fatal to babies, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Those under one year old and the elderly are at the greatest risk. While most RSV infections usually cause mild illness, infants aged less than six months frequently develop bronchiolitis and pneumonia, which may result in hospitalisation.

Children born prematurely, or with underlying chronic lung disease, and the elderly with severe heart conditions can also be badly affected, but NHS Grampian is looking for volunteers to test a new vaccine which, it is hoped, will provide enhanced protection.

NHS Grampian needs volunteers

However, Professor Roy Soiza, a consultant geriatrician at the health body and honorary chairman of the Ageing Clinical & Experimental Research Group at Aberdeen University, has told the Press & Journal he can understand why some people might be wary of using the Moderna-produced vaccine, given the plethora of jabs which were handed out during the Covid pandemic, occasionally with damaging side effects.

So what is the trial about? And why should it be supported by those vulnerable to RSV?

Prof Soiza and his team want people to take part in a vaccine trial to protect them against RSV. Image: Kath Flannery

Prof Soiza said: “It is difficult to get accurate figures because not all adults with serious chest infections are tested for RSV. However, there is evidence that there are more than 5,000 deaths a year in the UK (so that is approximately 500 in Scotland).

“In children under five, there are 33,500 hospital admissions every year in the UK due to RSV. In older adults, the precise figure is unknown due to limited testing, but it is widely accepted to be in the thousands of admissions in Scotland.

Vaccine could be breakthrough against RSV

“It causes an upper respiratory tract infection in most people, akin to a bad cold. Unfortunately, it can trigger much more serious infections such as bronchiolitis in very young children and in those with compromised immune systems.

“The inflammation of the lungs can be sufficiently severe to require hospitalisation for oxygen. And, in some cases, this is fatal.

“Successful vaccines against RSV are a relatively new development, so we have the opportunity now to reduce the burden of this disease for the first time.”

NHS Grampian’s Jillian Evans urges public to get Covid booster to protect health service this winter

In December 2022 – the release was published on the cusp of Christmas – the Government at Westminster announced a 10-year partnership deal with Moderna to develop, manufacture and test vaccines throughout Britain.

This is being promoted as part of a wider drive to transform the UK into a leader in vaccine research, in a bid to save lives, minimise the burden of infectious diseases on the NHS and wider society and protect the country from future pandemics.

Taking steps to tackle viruses

The news has not been welcomed everywhere and misgivings over vaccines exist among a section of the public – a state of affairs which has led to cases of measles being on the increase again in England –  but Prof Soiza believes there is an opportunity to take strides forward in tackling viruses and preparing for the next pandemic.

Roy Soiza realises that some people are sceptical about new vaccines. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

He told me: “Along with our colleagues throughout NHS Scotland, we in Grampian have an important role to play in this drive. We have a Vaccine Trials team within the Grampian Research Office that has already tested or is testing vaccines by Moderna and other major manufacturers against Covid-19 and other illnesses.

“I am pleased we have developed a reputation for excellence in this field thanks to the support of the people in the north-east who volunteer for these trials.

“I envisage a growing number of trials of carefully selected vaccines that will improve our population’s health for many years to come.”

The toll of Covid

It’s understandable that the grim memories of Covid and the months spent in lockdown, with schools and offices closed amid a grievous death toll and the NHS coming close to being overwhelmed, have left a lingering mark on many in society and proved the catalyst for an escalation in mental health issues among youngsters.

Prof Roy Soiza is hoping to find volunteers to take a new Moderna vaccine. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

The majority in Britain might remain convinced that the extreme policies enforced in 2020 were necessary to fight the infection while vaccines were created and mass-produced, but that doesn’t mean they are sanguine about being asked to continually use such measures without finding out exactly what is being injected into their bodies.

Prof Soiza, who described himself as a “sceptic”, understands these anxieties. But he still believes that science should be at the forefront of tackling serious illnesses and if that means using more vaccines in the future, he considers it a price worth paying.

Safety of vaccine developed to high standard

He said: “The recent pandemic showed how disastrous infectious diseases can be, and how vaccine development can help us mitigate against most of the worst effects.

“However, I am broadly sympathetic to those who feel ‘vaccine fatigue’ and even those with ‘vaccine hesitancy’ who are sceptical about the worth of vaccines.

“As a geriatrician – a specialist in the care of older people- I worry that we sometimes over-prescribe and over-value medications in general.

“It is important we are not dogmatic and look carefully at the evidence – I always do this in my work, whether as a clinician or a researcher and when I am a patient as well.

Covid Scotland: All you need to know on vaccines for 5 to 11-year-olds

“However, it is clear that the burden of illness and deaths caused by certain infections, including Covid-19, flu and RSV, is such that vaccination against them for those at high risk of serious infection makes sense.

“The safety and effectiveness of vaccines are developed to an extremely high standard, and the bar for the UK government’s Joint Committe on Vaccination and Immunisation to recommend vaccination for the NHS is also set very high.

“Great care is taken to target the vaccines at those who are most likely to benefit from them. Even as a natural sceptic, I recommend their use.”

How to get involved in vaccine programme

The professor spelled out what the new testing programme would entail and stressed it only involves a small section of the population who are vulnerable to RSV.

He said: “The present study is looking for people, aged 18 to 59, with a history of ischaemic heart disease – which means they have angina or had a previous heart attack – and also people, aged 18 or over, with a kidney, lung or liver transplant.

The MHRA has warned there is are "extremely rare" heart inflammation side effects associated with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid vaccines.
The MHRA has warned there is are “extremely rare” heart inflammation side effects associated with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid vaccines.

“They will receive the new Moderna mRNA-1345 vaccine against RSV as one of two different doses. The study aims to prove that it is just as effective against RSV in these patients as in older people, and will help guide public health efforts to minimise deaths and hospitalisations due to this infection.”

There’s no doubt that advances are being made. It will be interesting to monitor the uptake for this new vaccine test.

Anybody wishing to take part should email