Coronavirus vaccine: 'Best-case scenario' is new drug will be available this year

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·2-min read
FILE - In this Wednesday, June 24, 2020 file photo, a volunteer receives a COVID-19 test vaccine injection developed at the University of Oxford in Britain, at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. People on six continents are testing experimental shots as the race for a COVID-19 vaccine enters a defining summer, with even bigger studies poised to prove if any leading candidate really works - and possibly offer the public a reality check. (AP Photo/Siphiwe Sibeko)
A volunteer receives a COVID-19 test vaccine injection developed at the University of Oxford. (PA)

Hopes for a coronavirus vaccine as early as this year have been given a boost after human trials are reported to have shown promising results.

Researchers at the University of Oxford believe they have made a breakthrough after discovering the jab could provide "double protection" against the virus, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said teams were working towards a "best case scenario" of a vaccine being made available sometime this year, although conceded it was more likely in 2021.

Speaking on ITV's Peston on Wednesday evening, Hancock said: "We're all working towards the best case scenario, we're all giving AstraZeneca and the team at Oxford, and the Imperial vaccine, every possible support, we're working with the other potential vaccines around the world, in America, and Germany, and the Netherlands.

"We're working with them to ensure that if they come off first, that we'll get access to them here.

"But this is an inexact science and it's at risk.”

He said the most clinically vulnerable, such as the elderly, and healthcare workers would be the first to get the vaccine, and added that he is expanding the list of professionals who can legally vaccinate, which will include not just GPs but also technicians, nurses and pharmacists.

Nurses and pharmacists can already administer certain vaccinations without a prescription from a doctor.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the phase one trial in healthy adult volunteers, which began in April, showed the vaccine generated an immune response, with blood samples indicating it stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and "killer T-cells”.

The combination of the two responses "will hopefully keep people safe", a source told the paper.

Screen grab taken from video issued by Britain's Oxford University, showing a person working inside the lab working on a potential COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University in England, Thursday April 23, 2020.  Two volunteers have received the first vaccine trial against the COVID-19 Coronavirus on Thursday. (Oxford University Pool via AP)
A person working inside the lab working on a potential COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at Oxford University. (AP)

David Carpenter, chairman of the Berkshire Research Ethics Committee, which approved the Oxford trial and continues to work with scientists on amendments, told the paper that the team were "absolutely on track”.

He added: "Nobody can put final dates… things might go wrong but the reality is that by working with a big pharma company, that vaccine could be fairly widely available around September and that is the sort of target they are working on.”

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter