Experts from the University of Nottingham are conducting a new trial in care homes that seeks to determine an effective drug to reduce the severity and transmission of Covid-19. While older populations are first in the queue in the vaccination programme, the vaccine's effectiveness for more frail people is unknown; therefore, researchers are keen to identify therapeutic alternatives.

Called PROTECT the clinical trial will initially focus on 400 care homes and approximately 12,000 residents. It will test drugs already established in treating Covid-19 but will use them to prevent the disease instead. This is an international problem as 30-40% of Covid-19 mortalities worldwide have taken place within care homes.

Multiple treatments will be analysed in parallel with the aim that a particular treatment will be shown to be effective within two months, and a new drug can be tested. The team is now appealing for care home managers to participate in the trial and have developed training materials for staff and information for residents and their families.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, said: "This trial is hugely important on so many levels. Firstly, it will enable detailed research with the intention of identifying lifesaving interventions that could prevent some of our most vulnerable citizens from contracting Covid-19. And secondly, because it recognises that those living within care homes continue to have a vital contribution to make towards society and prioritises medical research which puts their health and wellbeing front and centre of scientific considerations."

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Will the vaccines be effective in older frail populations?

This research may prove to be increasingly crucial as recently there have also been some concerns raised over the vaccination of already frail populations. Last week authors of an editorial published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging argued that questions remain over any vaccines efficacy in older populations and any potential side effects.

The authors pointed out that there may arise unexpected safety issues when doses are given to already frail adults in care homes and people who may have had Covid-19 recently. Additionally, they said that it is an unanswered question whether the vaccine will generate an adequate response, although data suggests there is a reduced antibody response in older people.