A team of UK scientists racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine believe they have made a breakthrough in early trials of a jab which may eventually offer “double protection against the virus.
Researchers at Oxford University began human trials of a coronavirus vaccine in April. Blood samples taken from the group of 500 UK volunteers who were given a dose of the vaccine developed both antibodies and T-cells in response, according to multiple reports, including the Daily Telegraph .
T-cells can kill a virus and the cells it has infected, providing an important part of the body’s response to viral infections. The discovery is promising because two recent studies have indicated that antibodies may disappear within weeks or months, while T-cells can stay in circulation in the body for much longer.
A source told the Telegraph that the combination of T-cells and antibodies would “hopefully keep people safe.”
A total of 124 coronavirus vaccines are currently in development, with 10 currently being tested in people. But scientists do not yet know whether it is possible for any vaccine to give a user long-term immunity to Covid-19.
But David Carpenter, chair of the Berkshire Research Ethics Committee, which approved the Oxford trial, told the Telegraph the teams were “absolutely on track and said the vaccine could be available, if it proves to be effective, as early as September.
“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,” he said.
A bigger trial for the Oxford vaccine of 5,000 volunteers is currently underway in Brazil, and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has signed a contract to mass-produce the vaccine should it prove to be effective.
The full findings of the first trials for the Oxford vaccine will be published in The Lancet, a medical journal, on July 20, the Telegraph reported.
Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, said on Wednesday that the “best-case scenario was a vaccine being available this year, but that one would more likely be ready by next year.
“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, he told ITV’s Robert Peston .
“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.”
A spokesperson for Oxford University said the full paper setting out their findings will be published in the Lancet on Monday next week.