A coronavirus vaccine being developed by scientists from Oxford will commence its first human trials on Thursday, April 23 according to UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock.
Hancock says study will take in 510 healthy volunteers between 18 and 55 years of age from varied locations in the United Kingdom.
Half the volunteers will receive the vaccine while the other half will get a ‘control’ vaccine which guards against sepsis and meningitis. The trial will take around six months but volunteers have the option of checking in after a year from the time of vaccination.
The UK government will be pumping in $24 million (Sh2.5 billion) to the team working on the vaccine and additional $27 million (Sh2.7 billion) to imperial college where another vaccine is also being developed.
The money to imperial college is meant to support the phase two of the trial and also begin a third phase of the same.
According to Hancock both of the institutions working on the vaccine “are making rapid progress,” and “they’ll do everything in their power to support.”
How does the trial vaccine work?
According to researchers at Southampton University, the vaccine which will be known as ChAdox1 CoV-19 is developed form a weakened version of the common cold virus from chimpanzees and genetically altered to prevent it from growing in humans. Then it is combined with genes that make proteins from covid-19.
The main attacking strategy of the vaccine according to scientists will be to turn the virus’ most potent weapon, its spikes against it. The vaccine will increase antibodies that stick on the spikes allowing a person’s immunity to lock onto and destroy the virus.
Vaccines are trial and error, with other leading institutions like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations being at the forefront in the vaccine development race and pumping in about $250 million (sh. 26 billion), vaccine trials are yet to begin.
“Vaccine development is a process of trial and error and trial again,” said Hancock.
Earlier this year, it was widely agreed by experts that a viable vaccine would take about 18 months to develop. According to the chief executive of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Mark Suzman, once the world finds a vaccine, there will be need to produce billions of does to meet the needs of the 7.8 billion people.
"We are going to need to vaccinate nearly every one. There is no manufacturing capacity to do that," says Suzman.
Will a vaccine immediately stop the spread of Covid-19?
Vaccines prevent but don’t cure diseases. The development of one is a long and back and forth process which requires a stretched multi-step procedure to determine facts such as its safety and efficacy.
Even after a vaccine is rolled out in a population it will still take several months for the population to respond to the dose. Meanwhile in the case of Covid-19 people will be required to maintain the same prior directives of social distancing, quarantine and hygiene for those months.
As the trial for a covid-19 vaccine launches on April 22 in the U.K, the virus has claimed a total of 177,496 lives globally and infected 2,565,059 people.