The UK government – yes all four Nations – has struck deals for 190 million doses of different vaccines. which include:
- 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine made from a genetically engineered virus
- 30 million doses of the BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine, which injects part of the coronavirus’ genetic code
- 60 million doses of the Valneva inactivated coronavirus
At least this important initiative and the funding thereof has not been left to the devolved parliaments of the three smaller nations of the UK.
These have been paid for even though it is uncertain which, if any, of the vaccines may prove effective for immunising the UK population of 67 million people. Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, told the BBC: “What we are doing is identifying the most promising vaccines across the different categories, or different types of vaccine, so that we can be sure that we do have a vaccine in case one of those actually proves to be both safe and effective. “It’s unlikely to be a single vaccine for everybody. “We may well need different vaccines for different groups of people.”
There are 140 research teams around the world working on a vaccine of which ten are running small scale safety phase 1 studies, ten running expanded safety phase 2 trials and three running phase 3 wider testing and effectiveness studies.
In the pre-clinical stage of testing, researchers give the vaccine to animals to see if it triggers an immune response.
In phase 1 of clinical testing, the vaccine is given to a small group of people to determine whether it is safe and to learn more about the immune response it provokes.
In phase 2, the vaccine is given to hundreds of people so scientists can learn more about its safety and correct dosage.
In phase 3, the vaccine is given to thousands of people to confirm its safety – including rare side effects – and effectiveness. These trials involve a control group which is given a placebo.
The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and triggers an immune response. Trials involving 1,077 people showed the injection led to them making antibodies and T-cells that can fight coronavirus. The findings are hugely promising, but it is still too soon to know if this is enough to offer protection and larger trials are under way.
The vaccine – called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 – is being developed at unprecedented speed. It is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. It has been heavily modified, first so it cannot cause infections in people and also to make it “look” more like coronavirus. Scientists did this by transferring the genetic instructions for the coronavirus’s “spike protein” – the crucial tool it uses to invade our cells – to the vaccine they were developing. This means the vaccine resembles the coronavirus and the immune system can learn how to attack it.
The trials to date have been safe, and there were no dangerous side-effects from taking the vaccine, however, 70% of people on the trial developed either fever or headache. The researchers say this could be managed with paracetamol.
The results so far are promising, but their main purpose is to ensure the vaccine is safe enough to give to people. The study cannot show whether the vaccine can either prevent people from becoming ill or even lessen their symptoms of Covid-19. More than 10,000 people will take part in the next stage of the trials in the UK. However, the trial has also been expanded to other countries because levels of coronavirus are low in the UK, making it hard to know if the vaccine is effective. There will be a large trial involving 30,000 people in the US as well 2,000 in South Africa and 5,000 in Brazil.
There are also calls to perform “challenge trials” in which vaccinated people are deliberately infected with coronavirus. However, there are ethical concerns due to a lack of treatments. Click for full article