A group of scientists at Oxford University have already begun clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine, which could be ready by the fall.
Around 1,1000 people so far, who are between the ages of 18 and 55 and have not tested positive for COVID-19, have been enrolled in the trial, which began on April 23.
The study “aims to assess whether healthy people can be protected from COVID-19 with this new vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19,” according to a press release. The vaccination is made from a “weakened version of a common cold virus,” which affects chimpanzees but “has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.”
Researchers hope that after being given the vaccine, the body will be able to “recognize and develop an immune response” to the virus, which will help prevent infection.
So far, vaccines made from the weakened virus “have been given to more than 320 people…and have been shown to be safe” with minimal side effects.
If, throughout the course of the study, scientists are able to prove that the vaccine is safe and effective, it could be available by September, although they have warned that “these best-case timeframes are highly ambitious and subject to change.”
Generally, even working quickly, vaccines take between 12-18 months to develop, they noted, stressing that before hitting the market, all treatments have to be thoroughly tested through a series of clinical trials and will also have to be granted regulatory approval.
By the end of next month, researchers hope to be able to expand their tests to include an additional 5,000 people.
Although trials are still in the preliminary stage, scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory received promising results last month using the vaccine in a study involving rhesus macaque monkeys.
None of the animals that received doses of the vaccination prior to infection developed signs of the virus or showed signs of lung damage. The study is still being analyzed and has yet to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, according to The New York Times.
While the purpose of the vaccination is to help eliminate the threat posed by the virus, in order to test its effectiveness, researchers need to have access to a “small number” of infected subjects.
“How quickly we reach the numbers required will depend on the levels of virus transmission in the community. If transmission remains high, we may get enough data in a couple of months to see if the vaccine works, but if transmission levels drop, this could take up to 6 months,” Oxford University researchers noted in a press release.
Prof. Adrian Hill, one of the five researchers working on the trials, told The New York Times that if the need arises, they will travel to areas with high infection rates. “We’ll have to chase the epidemic,” he said. “If it is still raging in certain states, it is not inconceivable we end up testing in the United States in November.”
As of Monday, there are now over 3 million confirmed cases of coronavirus across the globe, and at least 210,374 people have died, according to a Johns Hopkins database.
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