Human trials of a potential
.Coronavirus vaccine developed at the University of Oxford are to begin on Thursday, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
And one member of the Oxford team said that if trials are successful, millions of doses of vaccine could be available for use by the autumn of this year, in a breakthrough which would potentially signal the start of the world’s slow emergence from an outbreak which has already claimed 175,000 lives and caused devastating economic damage.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said the government was “throwing everything” at the search for a vaccine and announced he was providing £20m to the Oxford team to help fund its clinical trials, with a further £22.5m going to researchers at Imperial College London.
Despite a normal development time of 18 months or more for a vaccine,
the Oxford researchers led by Professor Sarah Gilbert believe large-scale production could be under way as early as September – about nine months after the novel virus was first spotted in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Mr Hancock said the government will now invest in manufacturing capability so that if either the Oxford or Imperial vaccine works safely, it will be made available to the UK public “as early as humanly possible”.
Mr Hancock cautioned that hopes of a breakthrough on a vaccine should not tempt people to become complacent in social-distancing measures.
He said: “Coronavirus is a powerful enemy. But I believe that the power of human ingenuity is stronger.
“Every day the science gets better, we gather more information, we understand more about how to defeat the illness.
“But in the meantime there’s one thing we can do – and that is stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.”