Oxford University coronavirus vaccine trials will start this week

Coronavirus vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford will be trialled on people from THURSDAY, Health Secretary Matt Hancock says

  • Mr Hancock said the a vaccine will be the best way to beat virus ‘in the long run’
  • Oxford scientists have genetically modified a common cold virus to make the jab
  • They will test the vaccine on up to 510 people aged between 18 and 55
  • Researchers hope to give people internal protection against COVID-19 
  • Trials are recruiting volunteers in London, Bristol and Southampton
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

A COVID-19 vaccine developed at the University of Oxford will be trialled on humans in the UK from Thursday this week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said he was ‘throwing everything at’ Britain’s attempt to develop the first vaccine in the world.

The Government will give the scientists an extra £20million to help with their trials, Mr Hancock said, and a further £22.5m to a project at Imperial College London.

The Oxford vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 will be trialled on up to 510 people out of a group of 1,112 aged 18 to 55. It is recruiting volunteers in London, Bristol, Oxford and Southampton. 

It is the first British-made vaccine to go into real-world trials and carries with it huge hopes that it will provide a key to getting out of lockdown and banishing COVID-19.

The virus has now infected more than 125,000 people and killed 17,339 in the UK and the UK is on course to end up one of the worst-hit nations in the world. 

Mr Hancock said developing vaccines is an ‘uncertain science’ which usually takes years but that manufacturing capacity will be ramped up in case the jab is a success and is suitable to roll out to the public.

The trial will take six months and is limited to a small number of people so scientists can assess whether it is safe and effective without using huge amounts of resources – each patient must return for between four and 11 visits after the jab – and without the risk of large numbers of people being affected if something goes wrong.  

Speaking at today’s coronavirus briefing at Downing Street, the Health Secretary said: ‘In the long run the best way to defeat coronavirus is through a vaccine.

‘After all, this is a new disease. This is uncertain science, but I am certain that we will throw everything we’ve got at developing a vaccine.

‘The UK is at the forefront of a global effort. We’ve put more money than any other country into the global search for a vaccine and, for all the efforts around the world, two of the leading vaccine developments are taking place here at home at Oxford and Imperial [College London].

‘Both of these promising projects are making rapid progress and I’ve told the scientists leading them that we’ll do everything in our power to support.’

He pledged a total of £44.5million to the projects in Oxford and London to enable scientists to go ahead with trials and getting the vaccine used in people.

The jab is based on an adenovirus, which is the type that causes common colds, which was taken from chimpanzees and damaged so it is unable make humans ill.

The virus was genetically engineered so that it makes ‘spike’ proteins found on the outside of the COVID-19 viruses and are essential to its ability to infect people.

By injecting these proteins into the body but without the rest of the coronavirus, scientists hope to train the immune system to recognise those proteins as a disease-carrying invader and work out how to attack it.

If successful, this will mean that a vaccinated person will not become ill if they catch the real coronavirus because their body has already learned to attack the proteins that will be on the outside of it. Therefore, the immune system will in theory be able to destroy it before it is able to cause any symptoms.

Mr Hancock said: ‘The team have accelerated that trial process, working with the regulator, the MHRA, who have been absolutely brilliant.

‘And as a result, I can announce that the vaccine from the Oxford project will be trialled in people from this Thursday. 

‘In normal times, reaching this stage would take years and I’m very proud of the work taken so far.’

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