Oxford COVID-19 vaccine developer cautious about 2020 rollout

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Oxford University’s possible COVID-19 vaccine could be deployed by the end of the year, but there is no certainty, the lead vaccine developer said on Tuesday.The experimental vaccine, which was licensed to AstraZeneca, produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials, data showed on Monday, preserving hope that it could be used by the end of 2020.

“The end of year target for vaccine rollout is a possibility, but there is absolutely no certainty about that because we need three things,” Sarah Gilbert told BBC Radio .

She said it needed to be shown to work in late stage testing, large quantities needed to be manufactured, and regulators needed to quickly agree to clear it for emergency use before large numbers of people can be vaccinated.

Divided opinions

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty and his deputy, Jonathan Van-Tam, have expressed differing views on the possible timetable.

“The chances of us getting a vaccine before Christmas that is actually very effective are, in my opinion, very low,” Whitty told lawmakers.

Van-Tam, however, said he was “cautiously optimistic that we will have vaccine this side of Christmas”.

Oxford scientists had envisioned a million doses of the potential vaccine to be produced by September.

Although the deal with AstraZeneca provided the manufacturing capacity to do so, the low prevalence of the novel coronavirus in Britain has complicated the process of proving its effectiveness.

Critical end-stage trials to provide data are underway in Brazil and South Africa and are expected to begin in the United States.

There are no approved vaccines for COVID-19 yet, but the World Health Organization has said AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of the main candidates.

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