Human trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by researchers at Oxford are reported to have shown promising results.
Researchers believe they have made a breakthrough after discovering that jab could provide “double protection” against the virus Daily Telegraph reported.
The paper said that the Phase 1 trial of healthy adult volunteers, which began in April, showed that the vaccine generated an immune response, with blood tests indicating that it stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and “killer T cells”
It came when Health Secretary Matt Hancock said teams were working to make a “best case scenario” a vaccine available sometime this year, though he admitted it was more likely in 2021.
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David Carpenter, chairman of the Berkshire Research Ethics Committee, which approved the Oxford trial and continues to work with researchers on changes, told Telegraph that the team was “absolutely on the right track”.
“They can strengthen the results by targeting hospitals, healthcare staff where the spread is [more] likely to happen, he said.
“No one can set an end date … things can go wrong but the reality is that by working with a large pharmaceutical company, the vaccine can be quite widely available around September and that’s the kind of goal they are working on.”
But a source told the newspaper that the results did not yet prove that the Oxford vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, provides long-lasting immunity.
“I can tell you that we now know that the Oxford vaccine covers both bases – it produces both a T cell and an antibody response,” the source said.
“It is the combination of these two that will hopefully protect people. So far, so good. It’s an important moment. But we still have a long way to go. “
Talking about ITVs Peston on Wednesday night, Hancock said: “We are all working for the best case, we are all giving AstraZeneca and the team in Oxford, and the imperialist vaccine, all possible support, we are working with other potential vaccines around the world, in America and Germany and the Netherlands.
“We work with them to make sure that if they get off first, that we get access to them here. But this is an inaccurate science and it is at risk. “
He said that the most clinically vulnerable, such as the elderly, and healthcare professionals would be the first to receive the vaccine.
“It’s the principle established by the independent committee that oversees these things and about the clinical evidence,” he added.
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On how the vaccine will reach humans, Hancock said he is expanding the list of professionals who can legally vaccinate, which will include not only GPs but also technicians, nurses and pharmacists.
On June 19, the first healthy volunteer received a small dose of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by researchers from Imperial College London.
About 300 healthy participants are expected to participate in that trial.
The pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca reached an agreement with the European Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA) to deliver up to 400 million doses of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine – without profit – with deliveries starting at the end of 2020.
How are researchers developing vaccines against new viruses?
Vaccines work by tricking our bodies into thinking we have been infected with a virus. Our body builds an immune response and builds a memory of the virus that allows us to fight it in the future.
Viruses and the immune system interact in complex ways, so there are many different ways to develop an effective vaccine. The two most common types are inactivated vaccines (which use harmless viruses that have been “killed” but still activate the immune system), and muted vaccines (which use live viruses that have been modified to trigger an immune response without causing us harm).
A more recent development is recombinant vaccines, which involve genetic manipulation of a less harmful virus so that it includes a small part of the target virus. Our body launches an immune response against the carrier virus, but also against the target virus.
In recent years, this approach has been used to develop a vaccine (called rVSV-ZEBOV) against the Ebola virus. It consists of an animal virus vesicular stomatitis (which causes flu-like symptoms in humans), designed to have an external protein in the Zaire strain of Ebola.
Vaccines undergo a huge amount of testing to check that they are safe and effective, if there are any side effects and what dose levels are appropriate. It usually takes years before a vaccine is commercially available.
Sometimes this is too long and the new Ebola vaccine is administered under “compassionate use”: it has not yet completed all its formal tests and paperwork, but has been shown to be safe and effective. Something similar may be possible if one of the many groups around the world working on a vaccine against the new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is successful.