With global coronavirus cases now at over nine million, scientists have been frantically working to develop an effective vaccine.
A vaccine candidate developed at the University of Oxford has been tipped as the ‘front runner’, and is currently being tested in 10,000 volunteers – including over 70s and 5-12-year-olds.
Drugs company AstraZeneca has announced that it’s ready to quickly produce 30 million vaccines, if the trial proves successful.
However, experts have warned that Brits may have to wait several months before they can get their hands on it.
Here’s everything you need to know about the coronavirus vaccine, including what stage it’s at, and when it’s likely you’ll be able to get it.
What stage is the coronavirus vaccine trial at?
The Oxford trial is currently in Phase II/Phase III.
The first phase of the trial at the University of Oxford began in April, and included 1,000 adult volunteers.
Now, more than 10,000 volunteers – including over 70s and 5-12-year-olds – have been enrolled in the second phase of the trial.
Speaking last month, Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: “The clinical studies are progressing very well and we are now initiating studies to evaluate how well the vaccine induces immune responses in older adults, and to test whether it can provide protection in the wider population.
“We are very grateful to the huge support of the trial volunteers in helping test whether this new vaccine could protect humans against the pandemic coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, the vaccine is also being tested in South Africa, it was announced this week.
Dr Sandile Buthelezi, the Director General of Health in South Africa’s National Department of Health, said: “The National Department of Health is excited at the launch of this vaccine trial, which will go a long way to cement South Africa’s leadership in the scientific space.
“With COVID-19 infections increasing every day, the development of the vaccine will be the last solution in the long term, and we are fully behind the team leading this trial.”
What is the vaccine?
The vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is made from a virus ChAdOx1, which is a weakened version of a common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees, that has been genetically changed so that it is possible to grow in humans.
The researchers explained: “By vaccinating with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, we are hoping to make the body recognise and develop an immune response to the Spike protein that will help stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering human cells and therefore prevent infection.”
When will results of the trial be available?
Unfortunately, it remains unclear when the results of the trial will be available.
The researchers explained: “How quickly we reach the numbers required will depend on the levels of virus transmission in the community.
“If transmission remains high, we may get enough data in a couple of months to see if the vaccine works, but if transmission levels drop, this could take up to 6 months.
“Recruitment of those who have a higher chance of being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus is being prioritised, such as frontline healthcare workers, frontline support staff and public-facing key workers, in an effort to capture the efficacy data as quickly as possible.”
When will you be able to get the vaccine?
While early reports indicated that the vaccine could be available as early as August, experts have now warned it may not be ready until October.
Speaking during a webinar this week, Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, explained that the ‘best scenario’ would see results from the trial in August and September, with deliveries from October.
The delay is due to the fact that infection rates are now so low in the UK, according to Professor Sara Gilbert, who is leading the research.
She explained: “We had hoped to have enough people vaccinated before the outbreak reached a peak, but the virus spread rapidly, triggering a lockdown, and rates of infections are now falling. Unless some of the trial participants do become infected, we cannot know that the vaccine is effective.
“We are thus focusing on vaccinating healthcare workers, as they have the highest rates of virus infections. Further, as measures to ease the lockdown are being introduced, transmission may rise again.
“We need to manufacture more vaccine for the trials, and plan to start trials in more than one country to give ourselves the best chance of determining vaccine efficacy.”
What does it mean for you?
A vaccine would offer some protection against the virus by training your immune system to fight it.
This would allow lockdown to be lifted more safely, and social distancing to be relaxed.
If the trial is a success, it won’t be long before the vaccine becomes available in the UK.
AstraZeneca has said it has the capacity to manufacture one billion doses of the University of Oxford ‘s potential Covid-19 vaccine and will begin supply in September.