The award-winning documentary maker had access to the Porton Down high security laboratory where vaccines from two of our top universities are tested.
Michael told the Sunday Mirror, “Everyone is going ahead with the belief that we will have a vaccine by the end of the year. The speed at which this happens is amazing, since vaccines normally take five to ten years. “
Michael, 63, met Miles Carroll, deputy director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, at the sprawling base of Salisbury, Wilts, for a special BBC Horizon.
Researchers are studying vaccines produced by the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. One million doses of Oxford vaccine could be ready as early as September.
About 1,110 people will participate in the trial, half receiving the vaccine and the other half receiving a meningitis vaccine, and results are expected to begin next month.
AstraZeneca, the Cambridge-based pharmaceutical group, is partnering with the University of Oxford to manufacture and distribute the vaccine if clinical trials are successful.
Michael, who created the 5: 2 diet, said, “Our own scientists are taking over. It’s brilliant. They got the funding and the scientists were there to move.
“The Americans and the Chinese are among the leaders, but the British vaccine leaders are at the forefront. A scientist I spoke to this week was confident that at least one vaccine would be available this year. “
Scientists at the center also tested the Roche antibody tests, which they believed to be 100% accurate.
This initiative is being rolled out across the country and is seen as the key to getting the nation back to work. Michael said, “Porton Down is one of the few places where you can test these things.
They have the virus living there. It’s weird when you see them in their hoods and protective gear.
“The thing that causes all these problems is there. They handle it and test it right in front of you. It’s strange to be so close to something that is causing distress around the planet. ”
Michael was the last on the site in 2016 for a BBC show. He said, “At the time, they were talking about the risk of a pandemic just like this. People have been worried about it for years. “
Michael said authorities were caught up by the pandemic after previous epidemics such as SARS and MERS were contained in Asia and the Middle East and did not affect the United Kingdom. “People have become complacent,” he said. “So when Covid arrived, we were ill-prepared. “
And he fears that more epidemics are coming, adding, “The speed at which these viruses are emerging is accelerating. There is no doubt in my mind that there are others on the track. I hope lessons have been learned and we will be better prepared for the next time. “
But other scientists say it is unlikely that a vaccine will be available for general use before 2022.
Commercial Secretary Alok Sharma is spending £ 93 million to speed up the construction of a vaccine manufacturing center on the Harwell Science and Innovation campus in Oxfordshire.
But it will say today that although it will be put into service a year earlier than expected, it will not open until next summer. Any vaccine will take at least six months to produce after that.
There are 157 research projects worldwide using British funding of £ 388 million. Eight are now using people for clinical trials.
But most experts predict that the discovery of the vaccine will be in a year to 18 months.
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Dr. Edward Parker of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: “There is room for cautious optimism. “
Boris Johnson said a vaccine may never be found. He added, “Even after 18, we still don’t have a SARS vaccine. “
Coronavirus: A Horizon Special, Tuesday, BBC Two, 9 p.m.