The team developing a vaccine for Covid-19 hopes to start the first human clinical trials today.
Sarah Gilbert at Oxford University is leading the efforts for the new vaccine, said that all being well the trials would begin today.
She told BBC Breakfast on Monday that her team have gone through stages of vaccine development that usually takes five years in just four months.
However, she said that none of the normal safety steps have been missed out, explaining: “The very careful, controlled manufacturing of the vaccine – all of that is still being done.”
It is difficult to know when a vaccine might be ready though, Professor Gilbert said earlier in the week, as there are many complex stages in vaccine. The trials are for those in the 18-55 year old groups. Explaining the decision, Professor Gilbert explained that although the vaccine is targeted at old people, in order to be able to best check the results they needed to use a group of people with better immune responses.
Half of all the trial volunteers will get the new coronavirus vaccine and the other half will get a vaccine licensed to protect against meningitis, which will act as a control study.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was “throwing everything” at developing a vaccine, with the hope that one could be available for front-line workers and the most vulnerable people before the end of the year. He said two leading vaccine developments at UK universities – Imperial College London and the University of Oxford – would receive a total of £42.5m to support their trials.
“Both of these promising projects are making rapid progress and I’ve told the scientists leading them we will do everything in our power to support,” Hancock said at a Downing Street briefing on Tuesday. “After all, the upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it.”