Hopes were raised for an effective coronavirus vaccine today after an expert revealed results of a human trial could be available within a months’ time.
Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said this morning that ‘several hundred’ people have been vaccinated.
The 67-year-old told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the challenge now is to be able to manufacture at scale once it is approved by the regulators.
At the end of last month a team of researchers at Oxford started testing a Covid-19 vaccine in human volunteers. Half of these will receive the vaccine candidate and the other half – the control group – will receive a widely available meningitis vaccine.
A separate team from Imperial College London are also due to start testing jabs on humans in June. While the Oxford vaccine will try to stimulate the immune system using a common cold virus taken from chimps, the Imperial experts will use droplets of liquid to carry the genetic material they need to get into the bloodstream.
A volunteer is injected with either an experimental Covid-19 vaccine or a comparison shot as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential vaccine, led by Oxford, on April 25
Microbiologist Elisa Granato is injected as part of human trials for a coronavirus vaccine at Oxford on April 23. She said she is ‘fine’ after a fake article about her death was circulated
Mr Bell said: ‘We also want to make sure that the rest of the world will be ready to make this vaccine at scale so that it gets to populations in developing countries, for example, where the need is very great.
‘We really need a partner to do that and that partner has a big job in the UK because our manufacturing capacity in the UK for vaccines isn’t where it needs to be, and so we are going to work together with AstraZeneca to improve that considerably.’
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He rejected the idea of challenge therapy – that would deliberately infect healthy volunteers with coronavirus – and said there should be results on the vaccine trial by using normal exposure to the virus, if you keep your head down.
Mr Bell said: ‘Well, we’ve got over 1,000 people that want to start phase 1/2 project.
‘And so far so good, and we’re now starting to wait for an advocacy signal to see whether people who’ve been vaccinated, don’t get the disease so that’s the next step.’
Professor Sir John Bell (pictured in Birmingham in 2017), regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said this morning that ‘several hundred’ people have been vaccinated
He added that with the disease on the wane, there is a risk there may not be enough active disease to catch people.