Experts have warned that a working coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to be ready this year as they tell people they shouldn't have "wrong expectations" after ministers announced that they would have 30 million doses for the UK by September.
Both Oxford University and Imperial College London are working on vaccines. The former have now signed a contract with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to mass-produce their efforts if it turns out to be effective.
Economics Minister Alok Sharma said yesterday that the government hopes to launch a mass vaccination program this fall.
However, one of the professors who took part in the imperial initiative today cautioned, saying that there are "no guarantees" that a working vaccine will be developed and that, if it does, it will probably not be sooner than the next Year will be ready for mass production.
Robin Shattock, head of Mucosal Infection and Immunity at Imperial, said it was "important not to have a false expectation that it was just around the corner."
Imperial professor Robin Shattock said today that it "may take some time" for researchers to develop a working vaccine
Alok Sharma, the business secretary, said yesterday that the government hopes to have 30 million doses of a working vaccine for the UK by September
Oxford University has signed a contract with AstraZeneca to mass produce their vaccine if it is found to be effective. A person is shown who is participating in the clinical vaccine study
What is the difference between the vaccines developed by Oxford University and Imperial College?
The science behind both attempts to vaccinate depends on the restoration of the "spike" proteins, which are found outside the COVID-19 virus.
Both will try to replicate or imitate these tips in the body. The difference between the two is how they achieve this effect.
Imperial College London will attempt to deliver coronavirus genetic material (RNA) that programs cells in the patient's body to restore the spike proteins. It transports the RNA in liquid droplets that are injected into the bloodstream.
The Oxford University team, on the other hand, will genetically manipulate a virus so that it looks like the corona virus – with the same spike proteins on the outside – but cannot cause infection within a person.
This genetically weakened virus is a type of virus called adenovirus, just like those that cause colds and chimpanzees have been harvested.
If the vaccines successfully mimick a person's bloodstream and can stimulate the immune system to develop special antibodies to attack them, this could train the body to destroy the real coronavirus if it becomes infected in the future.
The same process is believed to occur in people who actually intercept COVID-19, but this is far more dangerous – a vaccine has the same endpoint without causing disease.
Prof. Shattock said there are an estimated 100 coronavirus vaccines in development worldwide.
However, the "most optimistic estimate" would indicate that one that has proven successful "will not be readily available for widespread use by early next year."
He said it could "take some time" for researchers to get all the data they need to prove without a doubt that a vaccine is actually working.
When asked if Britain was about to get a working vaccine, Prof. Shattock told the BBC: “I think we have to distinguish two different things. One of the hurdles is the production of vaccine doses. AstraZeneca can, of course, and that's a good thing, but it is very different from the data showing that the vaccine actually works.
“We need this data to show that it is ready and appropriate for implementation. It may take some time for this data to be available. It is a numbers game.
“As we can better reduce the number of infections in the UK, it is much more difficult to test whether the vaccine works or not.
& # 39; There is no certainty, no guarantees in developing one of these candidates, so I think it is important not to have a wrong expectation that it is just around the corner.
"It may take longer than any of us would like to think."
Some health experts have suggested that developing a vaccine could take up to 18 months, while others have suggested that one may never be found.
Prof. Shattock said: “I think we have to keep the context here. Obviously there could be some successes, we could see things work earlier when we get the numbers and the way the AstraZeneca approach prepares for that success.
& # 39; But it is very likely that we will not really get the evidence until early next year, and then there is a difference between a UK solution that could be put in place and a global solution.
"A global solution is likely to take much longer just because billions of cans are required to make it available worldwide."
Prof. Shattock said he believes there is "a very high chance of seeing a range of vaccines that work" because the evidence suggests that the coronavirus is "not as difficult a target as others".
He added: “My gut feeling is that we will see a number of candidates with good evidence early next year – possibly something this year.
"However, as the most optimistic estimate, they won't be readily available for widespread use by early next year."
Mr Sharma said at the daily Downing Street press conference yesterday that Britain will have first access to the Oxford University-developed vaccine if it is found to work.
AstraZeneca and the university have signed an agreement to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine by September, of which 30 million are ready for the UK.
Both Oxford University and Imperial College London vaccine projects are considered two of the world's leading companies.
Mr. Sharma pledged an additional £ 84 million to accelerate the development of a vaccine in the UK – in addition to an earlier pot of £ 47 million in cash – so that mass production can start as soon as possible in successful clinical trials.
A working vaccine is probably considered the only surefire way in the world to go back to something that resembles normal life.
The Oxford vaccine is currently in its first clinical trial. All participants in the first phase have now received their vaccine dose and will be monitored by the clinical trial team.
Mr. Sharma said, “I can also confirm that, with government support, the University of Oxford has entered into a global license agreement with AstraZeneca for the marketing and manufacture of the Oxford vaccine.
& # 39; This means that if the vaccine is successful, AstraZeneca will provide 30 million doses to the UK by September to deliver a total of 100 million doses.
"Britain will be the first to get access, and we can also ensure that we can not only support people here in the UK, but also make developing countries available to developing countries at the lowest possible cost."
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