Oxford raises vaccine hope with production caveat – Times of India


LONDON: A Covid-19 vaccine developed at the University of Oxford and tested on a human for the first time last Thursday now awaits a comprehensive efficacy trial by mid-August before the race begins for Britain to find potential partners to manufacture the billions of doses the world needs.
“The real question is: will the vaccine have efficacy and will it protect people? That has not been tested, and it will only be tested once you have vaccinated a significant number of people and exposed them to the virus, and counted how many got the virus,” Sir John Bell, Regius professor of medicine at Oxford, told BBC Radio 4 on Sunday.
“We won’t even get a signal for that until May. If we can see evidence of a strong immune response by the middle or end of May, then I think the game is on and they might get across the finish line by mid-August.”
According to Bell, one of the reasons for the rush was “to try and catch this wave of the disease”.
“When the disease goes away, there will be very few incidence cases until we get a second wave. The team developing the vaccine is keen to get it out in its trial now…If you don’t have any disease in the population or very little, the number of incidence cases is too small to be able to make that judgment. So, it is a bit of a race at the moment,” he said.
The Oxford team had started working on the vaccine in January, immediately after the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus was released.
Bell said even if the vaccine were to clear efficacy trials soon, scaling manufacture to produce many billions of doses would remain “a massive issue”. He said the UK did not have the capacity to do so alone and would need partners.
Business secretary Alok Sharma remained cautious. “Producing a vaccine is a colossal undertaking – a complex process that will take many months. There are no guarantees. We cannot put a date on when we will get a vaccine. But we live in a country with a rich history of pioneering science. And with the government backing our scientists, we have the best chance to do this as quickly as possible,” he said.
Sharma announced a new government-led vaccine taskforce on Friday. Oxford is among dozens of research institutes and pharmaceutical companies around the world trying to come out with a vaccine in the fightback against Covid-19.
“The best-case scenario is that by the autumn of 2020, we could have an efficacy result to show that the vaccine protects against the virus, alongside the ability to manufacture large amounts of the vaccine, but this timeframe is highly ambitious,” states Oxford’s website


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