COVID-19 vaccine is being fast-tracked
A hoped vaccine for the deadly coronavirus is being fasted tracked in the United Kingdom with the support of the government, with human trials to begin within days.
Experts at the University of Oxford believe they could have at least one million doses of a potential vaccine by September this year.
Although the UK government is hopeful, they emphasised that there were "no guarantees" and it was not possible to put a date on a confirmed vaccine.
The first patients are expected to take part in Oxford trials next week. However, it is still too soon to know whether it will be either safe or effective.
Most experts still estimate it will take 12 to 18 months to develop and manufacture a vaccine.
The Oxford trial is one of many, with approximately 80 groups around the world trying to discover a vaccine, including major pharmaceutical companies.
This research is taking place at unprecedented speed though - years of work are being condensed into months.
The research team at Oxford were able to start on the vaccine so quickly because they'd been preparing for an event like the COVID-19 pandemic, long before the current global outbreak.
They had already created a genetically engineered chimpanzee virus that would later form the basis for the new potential vaccine. They then combined it with parts of the new coronavirus.
The result is, potentially, a safe virus that trains the immune system to fight COVID-19.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, the lead Oxford researcher, says she is 80 per cent sure the proposed vaccine will work.
"This is my view, because I've worked with this technology a lot, and I've worked on the MERS-vaccine trials (another type of coronavirus), and I've seen what that can do," Professor Gilbert told the BBC.
"And, I think, it has a very strong chance of working."
The team are already planning to mass produce the vaccine, even before they know if it works.
"The aim is to have at least a million doses by about September, once you know the vaccine efficacy results and then move even faster from there," said Professor Adrian Hill, who is also part of the research team at Oxford University.
"It's pretty clear the world is going to need hundreds of millions of doses, ideally by the end of this year, to end this pandemic, to lead us out of lockdown."
Professor Gill described a million doses as a "fairly modest target" and vaccines as "the exit strategy" for coronavirus.
The researchers expect to know if their vaccine is effective in the next few months.
However, the success of lockdown could prove a stumbling block, because if the number of coronavirus cases fall, then it will take longer to know whether the vaccine is effective.
There are discussions about whether it would be safe to deliberately infect people in order to get answers faster.
The government has created a coronavirus taskforce to support the rapid development and manufacture of a vaccine.
Originally published as Hoped COVID-19 vaccine fast-tracked