Coronavirus: UK human vaccine trials to begin | News | DW | 22.04.2020
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Coronavirus: UK human vaccine trials to begin

Britain has said it is "throwing everything" at efforts to develop the first vaccine to protect people from COVID-19. Scientists at Oxford are about to start human trials, hoping to have experimental doses by September.

A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed at the UK's University of Oxford is due to begin testing on human volunteers on Thursday.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK was at the "forefront of the global effort" to produce a vaccine, and was investing in manufacturing capacity to ensure any successful candidate could be made available to the public as soon as possible.

"Vaccine development is a process of trial and error, and trial again," he said, adding that the government was "throwing everything" at vaccine projects.

Read more: Coronavirus vaccine: 'Clinical tests' in Germany soon

The University of Oxford will receive 20 million pounds ($24.5 million; €22.5 million) from the government, Hancock said. Another project at the Imperial College London will receive 22.5 million pounds.

The World Health Organization has said developing a safe vaccine will take at least 12 to 18 months, but scientists at Oxford say they expect to produce a million doses of an experimental vaccine as early as September.

Watch video 12:05

When will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

The race is on

Dozens of laboratories around the world are competing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with projects underway in China, Australia, Europe and the US.

Researchers at the University of Bern have said their newly developed vaccine against COVID-19 could be ready to roll out in Switzerland by October.

Immunologist Martin Bachmann, who works at the university, told journalists the international team had already conducted successful tests on mice. Vaccines are usually developed in labs before being tested on animals, and then ultimately on healthy humans in a multi-phase process.

Read more: US researchers start human trials for coronavirus vaccine

Ambitious goals

Switzerland's national regulatory body, Swissmedic, told German press agency DPA that while the October goal was optimistic, the vaccine could be approved for use before the end of the year if it meets all safety requirements.

"It is not totally far-fetched," Swissmedic spokesman Lukas Jaggi said. "Given the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic, we are talking about weeks, not months of approval procedures.”

Meanwhile, the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche has said it's unlikely a coronavirus vaccine will be available before the end of 2021. The company is preparing to launch an antibody test to let people know if they have ever had the virus next month.

nm/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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