THE rollout of the coronavirus vaccines is under way across the UK, giving hope for a way out of the health crisis.

But developing a vaccine would not have been possible without a pool of volunteers from across the four nations, with more than 3,000 people from Dorset putting their name forward to be a part of the effort.

Researchers need people to take part in studies to find out which potential vaccine is most effective, and those involved are required to visit a hospital or research site every few months.

NHS Digital data shows 3,405 people from Dorset had volunteered to take part in coronavirus vaccine studies as of last Thursday, January 7.

Of those, the largest proportion – around 54 per cent – were aged between 60 and 79, while 30 per cent were aged 40 to 59.

Across the South West as a whole, 41,400 people had signed up by January 7, as the national army of volunteers reached 379,000.

The figure is rising daily, as people can still put themselves forward to potentially take part in clinical trials.

Not everyone who signs up will take part in a study, which normally involves answering questions, undergoing blood tests and injections – which could be the vaccine – and keeping a diary of any symptoms between hospital visits.

The NHS, which worked with the National Institute for Health Research to provide a volunteer service, said: “Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. They are designed so they do not give people the infection they’re protecting against.

“Research into vaccines is the only way to find out which ones will work.”

Three vaccines have so far been approved in the UK – the Pfizer vaccine, which was rolled out in December; the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which came into use last week after approval at the end of 2020; and the Moderna vaccine, due to be delivered in the spring.

Speaking about the approval of the Oxford vaccine, Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England and co-lead of the NIHR, said: “There has been a considerable collective effort that has brought us to this point.

“The dedication and hard work of scientists, regulators and those who funded the research, such as the NIHR, United Kingdom Research and Innovation and United Kingdom Vaccine Network, and the willingness and selflessness of so many volunteers who took part in the vaccine trials were essential in delivering this safe and effective vaccine.

“They deserve our recognition and thanks, he added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes the rollout of vaccines will provide a route out of the third national lockdown.

In a televised address to the nation, he said people in the top four priority groups should receive a jab by mid-February.