By World Healthcare Journal-
At the Downing Street press briefing on 21st April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that human testing for a coronavirus vaccine would begin on Thursday.
Mr Hancock announced two sets of funding for researchers who are currently developing vaccines, who will both receive more than £20m worth of resource to continue their efforts.
One vaccine is currently being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford, who are optimistic that the vaccine will be effective. Another is currently in development at Imperial College London, who are aiming to begin human trials by June. Both universities have reported promising successes in the animal and pre-human stages of testing.
Mr Hancock further emphasised that creating a vaccine for the disease is an “uncertain science,” and that the process of developing an effective inoculation would be a matter of “trial and error, and trial again,”
“In normal times, reaching this stage would take years - and I’m very proud of the work undertaken so far,” says Hancock.
However, there are still many questions around when it will be ready for distribution to the general population. Professor Sarah Gilbert of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr show, was optimistic about the clinical trial but was cautious to set a timeframe for when it will be ‘ready’.
“The prospects are very good, but it's clearly not completely certain,” says Prof. Gilbert.
“We've been given permission to start recruiting volunteers and explaining the process of the vaccine trial to them to check their health status before we recruit them. By the time we have all the approvals for the vaccine ready, we should have a good pool of volunteers to draw from - and we'll be able to get going quite quickly. ”
The Oxford vaccine is formulated out of a chimpanzee virus which is harmless to humans, which has been engineered to carry a part of the coronavirus. This method of vaccination has been in wide usage for decades and extensive research has been performed on it. According to Prof. Gilbert, the Oxford team has utilised this technique “many times before” and are “not expecting any surprises”.
The Imperial team are taking a different approach, utilising an RNA vaccine to signal muscle cells to mimic the “spike” protein found on the coronavirus, which in turn triggers an immune response which should provide immunity to Covid-19.
Dr Robin Shattock, the leader of Imperial’s trial, is pleased that both universities are trying different approaches. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 today, he noted that they may even have collaborative properties which, by working together, could best protect the population.
“By having two approaches, we increase the chances of having an effective vaccine in the UK,” Shattock says.
“The reason why it’s good to have both approaches is that there are many risks of failure along the way,”
“And both these approaches could have complementary activity - so they could eventually be combined if we need to have a “prime and boost” to make an even more effective vaccine for certain populations. ”
In the latest coronavirus figures in the UK, deaths in hospitals have risen by 759 since yesterday, and 4,451 more people have tested positive for the virus.
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