13:05 GMT24 September 2020
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    The University of Oxford expects to have the first indication of whether its COVID-19 vaccine - called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 - works on humans in mid-June.

    Human trials for the coronavirus vaccine developed by the university began on April 23, after the drug showed promising results by protecting six rhesus macaque monkeys from large amounts of COVID-19 in late March. Around 1,100 people are currently part of the trial.

    "We hope to get some signal about whether it's working by the middle of June," John Bell, a regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told the BBC's "Today" radio program Thursday.

    "This is still a development program,” he added.

    The vaccine was developed by the Jenner Institute, a research group which is working on the project as part of the Oxford Vaccine Group.

    The Oxford Vaccine Group on Thursday also announced that it was partnering with British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to scale up vaccine production after the human trials end.

    "We will need to make 30 or 40 million doses in the first instance to get enough available. If it gets approved, we can vaccinate people immediately,” Bell explained.

    However, there are still difficulties to be expected, even if the Oxford vaccine is approved.

    "The vials that you put the vaccine in, the so called fill-and-finish, there's only 200 million vials left in the world now because they've all been sucked up by various people who can anticipate a vaccine coming along. There's lots of challenges,” Bell noted, Business Insider reported.

    Last week, the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, said it had started developing millions of batches of the Oxford vaccine even before the drug’s approval for human use.

    "The decision - at our own risk and cost - has been solely taken to get a jump-start on manufacturing, to have enough doses available, if the clinical trials prove successful," said Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla, according to Business Insider.


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