The Speaker
Saturday, 18 May 2024 – 10:37
A scientist in a laboratory

When might a Coronavirus vaccine be ready in the UK?

The start of the new week brought ‘promising news’ about a vaccine being researched in the UK to help protect the public against the COVID-19 Coronavirus. 

Here’s a look at the latest developments on the vaccine development front…


What is the latest news?

Trials on a vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford have shown that the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine appears to be safe and triggers an immune response in the human body.

The vaccine, being made from a modified version of a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees, is being developed at a rapid pace and much faster than normal vaccines. The vaccine is believed to produce antibodies and T-cells that can fight the COVID-19 virus, which is thought can negatively impact multiple organs when humans are infected.

The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that the news about the vaccine’s development was “promising news”.


Can there be side-effects from taking the vaccine?

The Oxford vaccine is thought to be safe and free from dangerous side-effects. Researchers did though find that around 70% of people on the vaccine trial developed manageable side effects of either a fever or headache.

It’s too early to say if the vaccine is 100% safe as trials are still taking place.


Are other vaccines being trialled?

Yes – many other vaccines are being trialled, in the hope that at least one will be shown to be safe, effective and then be approved to help tackle the COVID-19 virus.

140 vaccines are in pre-clinical trials around the world. 23 vaccines are currently in clinal trials.


When might a vaccine be available in the UK?

There are some hopes that a vaccine may be available to a limited amount of the population by the end of the year. This is though highly dependent on a vaccine being approved, which would usually take years. 

The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford, while it has also ordered 30 million and 60 million does of two other vaccines currently in development. Scientists have indicated that multiple vaccines may be needed for different groups of people. If a vaccine is made available, certain groups of people that are deemed to be at high risk from the virus are likely to be prioritised in getting vaccinated first. 

It’s too early to say definitively when a vaccine may be available in the UK as trials are still taking place. The UK has though taken steps to try and ensure that it will have supplies of multiple different vaccines (if they are approved for use).


What if there is no vaccine?

There is no guarantee that a safe and effective vaccine will ever be created. Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the importance of researching and securing Coronavirus treatments.

The UK government has already approved dexamethasone to be available on the NHS after clinical trials showed it can help reduce the risk of death for COVID-19 patients.

It is claimed that clinical trials on a new protein treatment developed in Southampton called interferon beta, that can be inhaled directly into the lungs, reduces the number of patients needing intensive care – though the results are yet to be confirmed

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