The coronavirus vaccine produced by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is highly sought after, after countries around the world have lost a devastating amount of lives due to COVID19. According to preliminary trial results, the Oxford University vaccine triggers a strong immune response and appears to be safe.
The trial involved 1,077 people and appears to show that the vaccine trains the immune system to produce antibodies and T-cells that can fight coronavirus. It has also been noted that this vaccine could cause a small number of side effects. Professor Sarah Gilbert, co-author of the study, comments to the Independent explaining the findings are promising but the world cannot get their hopes up just yet “is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the Covid-19 pandemic”. The UK has high hopes, confirming it has ordered over 100 million doses of the vaccine.
Many are skeptical about how the vaccine actually works. The vaccine is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and is being developed under extreme pressure and at a faster rate than vaccines for other diseases. The vaccine is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Scientists have had to highly modify it to make it safe for people to consume and to ensure it does not cause infections in the human body. Scientists transferred the spike protein to the vaccine they were developing, this will help to invade human cells. The vaccine has been created to resemble coronavirus and allow the immune system to learn how to combat it.
The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is feeling hopeful, as he comments that the results were “very positive” and he is congratulating scientists on their hard work of producing this vaccine. On Twitter, Boris Johnson tweeted “There are no guarantees, we’re not there yet and further trials will be necessary – but this is an important step in the right direction”.
The Oxford vaccine results still need to uncover more information for scientists to ensure the vaccine is going to be successful at fighting COVID19. For example, scientists need to know how long the cells last within the body, whether it can impact people from feeling ill and whether it will lessen the symptoms of COVID19. Researchers have emphasized that the vaccine does cause minor side effects such as a headache or fever that can be reduced by taking paracetamol, therefore there are no serious effects of the vaccine recorded so far. As BBC News reports “70% of people on the trial developed either fever or headache”.
The data for the Oxford trial is still ongoing as researchers feel the vaccine effectiveness needs to be analysed by expanding its use outside of the UK. The vaccine has been sent to be tested in countries such as South Africa, Brazil and the United States, where coronavirus cases are still growing. The trial is going to involve 30,000 people in the US, 2,000 in South Africa and 5,000 in Brazil. Some researchers believe challenge trials would be an effective way to test the vaccine, this is where vaccinated participants are deliberately infected with coronavirus to see if the vaccine can fight the disease. However, some researchers highlight ethical concerns with this method.
Citizens around the world are desperately waiting for researchers to announce when the vaccine will be widely available. It is possible the vaccine will be proven effective before the end of the year, however the vaccine may not be available for everyone. In the UK, it is believed that health and care workers will be a priority for the vaccine as well as those of high risk from other medical conditions or age. The planned date for widespread vaccination is early next year, if all trials go to plan.
BBC News reports that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expresses “Obviously I’m hopeful, I’ve got my fingers crossed, but to say I’m 100% confident we’ll get a vaccine this year, or indeed next year, is, alas, just an exaggeration”.
Other clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines are taking place; a new inhaled coronavirus treatment has resulted in significantly reduced number of patients in intensive care in hospitals. In total there are 23 coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials whilst another 140 are in the early stage of development. The US company Moderna was one of the first companies to announce their development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Their vaccine can produce neutralizing antibodies; they are injecting coronavirus RNA to trigger an immune response. In China, a similar method to Oxford University is being approached but results seem promising. Researchers are emphasizing that all these vaccines have never been proven to work before, therefore the development stage is a longer process than usual. Valneva is opting to attempt a more traditional method, whereby the whole coronavirus is inactivated and then injected.
Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce has commented to BBC News: “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.”