Cambridge

Coronavirus vaccines: Oxford candidate could be ready by autumn, flu season may wreak havoc in the winter, Australia to start first clinical trials…

The COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by the Oxford University consortium could be ready by autumn, according to the lead scientist of the project.

Professor Sarah Gilberts team are at the final stage of trials on humans, having involved 8,000 volunteers so far.

Because of the low transmission rates in the UK, the jab is being trialled in Brazil and South Africa, while the university aims at starting a large study in the US with 30,000 participants.

Once efficacy is confirmed, the formulation is likely to go through emergency approval by the authorities.

Pharma giant AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) is going to be the lead manufacturer, having ramped up capacity to 2bn doses.

Gilbert told MPs on the science and technology select committee the jab could reduce the severity of the disease rather than giving complete protection.

"It's something we have to test and follow over time – we can't know until we actually have the data – but we're optimistic based on earlier studies that we will see a good duration of immunity, for several years at least, and probably better than naturally acquired immunity."

Coronavirus vs flu

However, a top academic said UK hospitals should prepare for the winter with the assumption that there will not be a vaccine.

Sir John Bell, Regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told the committee it could be difficult to separate those who are suffering from coronavirus or seasonal flu.

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