Human and animal trials for a vaccine against the coronavirus are due to start taking place from next week in the UK at a maximum security science facility at Porton Down, according to reports.
The tests come as the British government finds itself locked in a race against time to mitigate the disease's outbreak. According to the same report, the government is likely to speedily launch the human trials - referred to as 'phase two' - before the results of the animal trials are even fully known, highlighting the sense of urgency that is driving the government’s response to COVD-19, which has so far claimed the lives of 177 Brits and infected upward of 3,983
Yet, despite ramped up efforts, specialists are warning that a vaccine for the disease is not going to arrive any time soon.
Professor Robin Shattock from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London told the BBC’s World at One that, “the first part of that testing is to check that it’s safe in humans in small numbers, and again induces the right sort of immune response.”
“That will take, even if we do things very quickly, two to three months. The next stage would be to ramp it up and start looking at whether the vaccine actually can prevent infection in the wider community. You need to produce the data to show that a vaccine works and how well it works before you can then get a license to then sell that as a product. So globally, vaccines are not going to be made widely available, at the earliest, until next year and it may be later if it’s a global solution requiring manufacturing,” Professor Shattock cautioned.
Under normal circumstances, broader third phase trials are needed before a drag can be clinically approved and distributed to the masses, in crisis situations however, trial vaccines are disturbed beforehand to key frontline workers, such as doctors and nurses.
Professor Adrian Hill, a leading researcher from Oxford University who is involved with developing the vaccine has been quoted as telling the Guardian that, “this is not a normal situation. We will follow all standard trial safety requirements, but as soon as we have a vaccine that’s working, we anticipate there will be an accelerated pathway to get it deployed to save lives. The more vaccine we can provide sooner, the better.”
However, the UK is far from the only country racing to find a successful vaccine. In what some have described as a “global arms race for a coronavirus vaccine” the US, Europe & China are also engaged in the same race against time. China is reported to have mobilised thousands of scientists to work on producing the remedy, while President Trump is said to have told executives of big pharmaceutical companies that he wants to make sure a vaccine is produced on American soil before anywhere else in the world. Indeed, the first human vaccine trials took places in the US earlier on this week, with four patients reportedly receiving injections at a research facility in Seattle, Washington. Yet, researchers insist that it will still be many months before they can say with confidence whether this vaccine works.