Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine is safe and provokes an immune reaction
Hopes of ending the Covid-19 pandemic with a vaccine grew today after promising data revealed Oxford University's experimental jab is safe and provoke an immune reaction that lasts for at least two months.
Hugely-anticipated clinical trial results of the vaccine — one of the front-runners in the world's race against time for a jab — revealed almost 100 per cent of volunteers injected produced an immune response against the coronavirus.
Thirty-three participants given the jab still had a 'neutralising' response — meaning their body may be able to prevent Covid-19 — after a month. Immune responses remained strong for at least 56 days, according to results in The Lancet.
This means that there were strong signs in their blood that they could fight off the coronavirus if they were to catch it. But it won't be licensed for human use yet because it has not been proven to work and the results only show it has promise.
Crucially, nobody suffered any bad side effects from the vaccine and it is stimulating the immune system as scientists hoped. Some people developed headaches, tiredness and pain in their arm after they were given the jab, but scientists claimed none of the side effects were severe.
Oxford University's vaccine — called AZD1222 — is already being manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and the UK Government has ordered 100million doses ahead of time.
Researchers on the project claimed 'the early results hold promise' but added much more is still needed.' Infectious disease scientists warned 'there is still a long way to go' before any vaccine is rolled out.
The eagerly awaited results come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson this morning tried to temper expectations when he admitted he wasn't totally confident there would even be a vaccine by the end of next year.
Ministers did, however, today announce deals for a further 90million doses of two types of experimental jab being developed in France and Germany. Britain is shoring up stocks of vaccines in development all over the world in its spread-betting approach in the hope that at least one of them will pay off.
Boris Johnson today admitted there may not even be a coronavirus vaccine ready by the end of next year, scuppering hopes that one would be ready to be rolled-out in September.
The Prime Minister claimed he has his 'fingers crossed' that a jab is eventually found but admitted he isn't 100 per cent confident one will be proven to work and warned we 'can't count in it riding over the hill like the cavalry'.
Britain must keep following social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks in confined spaces to 'drive the virus down by our own collective action', Mr Johnson said.
Speaking on Sky News this morning, the Prime Minister said: 'I wish I could say that I was 100 per cent confident we'll get a vaccine for Covid-19.
'Obviously I'm hopeful — I've got my fingers crossed — but to say I'm 100 per cent confident that we'll get a vaccine this year, or indeed next year is, alas, just an exaggeration — we're not there yet.
'If you talk to the scientists they think the sheer weight of international effort is going to produce something. They're pretty confident that we'll get some sort of treatments some sort of vaccines that will really make a difference.
'But can I tell you that I'm 100 per cent confident? No.
'That's why we've got to continue with our current approach - maintaining the social distancing measures... we've got to continue to do all the sensible things; washing our hands. All those basic things.'
Mr Johnson added: 'It may be that the vaccine is going to come riding over the hill like the cavalry but we just can't count on it right now.
The vaccine produced 'strong' responses on both accounts, the study found, with T cell immunity peaking after two weeks and then dropping slightly by day 56.
Antibody immunity, on the other hand, peaked after four weeks and remained high by day 56, the point at which the last measurement was taken.
After 28 days, up to 100 per cent of a group of 35 people still had a strong enough 'neutralising' immune response to destroy the virus, researchers found.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, one of the scientists leading the project, said: 'There is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the Covid-19 pandemic, but these early results hold promise.
'As well as continuing to test our vaccine in phase 3 trials, we need to learn more about the virus – for example, we still do not know how strong an immune response we need to provoke to effectively protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
'If our vaccine is effective, it is a promising option as these types of vaccine can be manufactured at large scale.
'A successful vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 could be used to prevent infection, disease and death in the whole population, with high risk populations such as hospital workers and older adults prioritised to receive vaccination.'
The results of the trial came after announcements earlier today that the Government has bought orders for two other potential vaccines from France and Germany.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained realistic about the prospects of a jab, saying people couldn't rely on one being made.
Speaking on Sky News this morning, Mr Johnson said: 'I wish I could say that I was 100 per cent confident we'll get a vaccine for Covid-19.