Coronavirus vaccine could be ready by September, Oxford professor says

11 April 2020, 10:16

A coronavirus vaccine could be ready by September
A coronavirus vaccine could be ready by September. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A vaccine for the coronavirus could be made readily available to the general public by September, according to an Oxford professor.

Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, said she was "80 per cent" confident a Covid-19 vaccine she and her team were working on would be successful.

The medical expert is leading a group of researchers in developing a potential vaccine that would protect people against the coronavirus.

Prof Gilbert said the trial she had been working on is due to begin on humans within two weeks.

She told The Times newspaper she was positive the vaccine would be successful "based on other things that we have done with this type of vaccine."

However, most industry experts say a vaccine could take up to 18 months to be developed and distributed on a global scale.

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But the professor claimed that by letting volunteers from places that have not imposed lockdown measures become infected naturally as soon as possible, it will speed up the clinical trial process.

"If one of those (places) turns out to have a high rate of virus transmission then we will get our efficacy results very quickly, so that is one strategy for reducing the time," she said.

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"Total lockdowns do make it harder. But we don't want the herd immunity either. We want them to be susceptible and exposed for the trials purely to test the efficacy."

Prof Gilbert added that if the vaccine is to be distributed by the autumn, the government will need to commence production before it has been proven to work.

"We don't want to get to later this year and discover we have a highly effective vaccine and we haven't got any vaccine to use," she said.

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Prof Gilbert later cautioned that nobody can guarantee or promise it is going to work and that the autumn time frame is "just about possible if everything goes perfectly."

She added: "But we have to do all we can as fast as we can."

Professor Stephen Evans, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he would treat news of a possible vaccine with "cautious optimism", and commended Prof Gilbert for being careful to make clear there are no guarantees.

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed a total of 19 NHS workers have now died after testing positive for coronavirus.

The secretary of state said he found it "really upsetting" that people were coming from across the world to give their lives to the service in the battle against Covid-19.

Mr Hancock offered his thoughts to the relatives of those who died

"My heart goes out to their families, these are people who have put themselves on the front line," he said.