Head of Imperial vaccine trials reluctant to "over promise" on vaccine release date

16 June 2020, 13:48

By Seán Hickey

Imperial College's lead scientist in coronavirus trials said his team will know later in the year when they can deploy a vaccine.

Professor Robin Shattock from the Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London joined Nick Ferrari on air to discuss the work his team are undertaking to make a coronavirus vaccine available to the public.

Nick asked the infection expert the question on everyone's lips, "when might it be made available." The professor was standoffish in his response, telling listeners that "it's important not to over promise and under deliver."

"It's speculation to say at this stage that I will have a vaccine ready on a certain date" he told Nick, adding that his team are "looking to make it available for not for profit" when they do ultimately come up with a vaccine.

Nick wouldn't take the professor's caution as an answer and pushed until the expert told him "talk to me in September I'll be able to tell you whether it's safe and whether it's inducing the right sort of immune response.

"Then later in the year we might be able to announce whether it's working or not"

Professor Shattock told LBC that his team will know better after September when a vaccine may be ready
Professor Shattock told LBC that his team will know better after September when a vaccine may be ready. Picture: PA

Nick was curious of the team "get the humans to take part in the trials" to which Professor Shattock told him that "healthy volunteers" are sought out actively by his scientists.

He went into further detail of how his team are manufacturing a Covid-19 vaccine, telling Nick that they "use genetic code for just a small part of the virus" and that they "take that tiny code and make copies of it." Nick was baffled.

"How on earth do you and your colleagues produce something as clever as this" he wondered. The professor told Nick that "we've moved at incredible speed" telling him that his lab has moved from the beginning to having trials in six months – a feat usually achieved after around five years.

Quizzed on what his team hope to achieve from trials, Professor Shattock told Nick that safety is first and foremost in the process.

"We're looking for safety and that it signals the right kind of immune response but safety has to be the primary thing to check first."

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