Why we can’t pin all our hopes on a coronavirus vaccine to get us out of the crisis – The Sun

HUMAN trials for a coronavirus vaccine at Oxford University will begin tomorrow but a jab might not rescue the UK from the crisis.

While governments around the world rush to find a cure, trials can still take up to a year and might not be the way out, experts have warned.

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The Government announced last week a coronavirus vaccine task force was being set up to make Britain the leading nation in the race to find a cure.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night: "The best way to beat coronavirus is through a vaccine.

"This is a new disease, this is uncertain science, but I am certain we will throw everything we've got at developing a vaccine."

He said the normally lengthy processes to develop a vaccine would be done as fast as possible.

"In normal times reaching this stage would take years."

He added the Government was already investing in manufacturing capability, so the UK will be able to get a working vaccine to Brits "as soon as is humanly possible". 

Professor Sarah Gilbert is leading the charge for a vaccine with the project at Oxford University, where human trials are due to start tomorrow.

While Mr Hancock buoyed up hopes of a vaccine, Professor Gilbert has been more tempered in her confidence in their vaccine – previously saying she was only 80 per cent certain their vaccine could work.

She acknowledge no one can be "completely certain" that is even possible to find a vaccine, but believes prospects are "very good".

Chief scientific adviser to the government Sir Patrick Vallance warned that people needed to be "realistic" about finding a vaccine.

He said: "Each single project does not have a high probability of success.

"Though everyone goes out with great enthusiasm, it's never the case that you've got a vaccine you're sure is going to work."

He stressed the importance of clinical trials to determine any negative side effects.

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Professor Ravi Gupta, from the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, said people needed to be prepared for not having a virus.

He said: "We need to prepare for a world where we don't have a vaccine.

"To base public policy on the hope of a vaccine is a desperate measure.

"We should hope for a vaccine but we shouldn't expect one in the next year and a half.

"Anyone who says we can is bonkers."

There are normally three phases to clinical trials.

The first is on a small group of people to look for any glaring negative side effects.

These groups are gradually widened to gather data on side effects and check the immune response.

But the whole process would normally take years.

For vaccines to be effective they should give immunity for no less than a year, meaning scientists could have to wait at least that long to see well the vaccine works in trial patients.

Professor Gupta said there were other options.

"The alternatives for a vaccine will be antiviral treatments for the disease.

"If we could treat the disease and diagnose it early then you could have a test and a treatment, that if you can start soon enough, you should be able to halt the disease early."

But treatments would not necessarily prevent you from getting infected again, as there is still not enough data on immunity from coronavirus once you've had it.

Consultant in communicable disease control Dr Peter English said treatments would only work in countries who could afford them.

"We might get better treatments but they’ll only be of use in countries that can afford them.

"So without a vaccine we’ll be looking at something that’s probably still worse than flu in terms of the number of people who get seriously ill, coming around every winter for the foreseeable future.

″[A vaccine] is the only way we’ll ever get out of this – the virus is out there in the world."




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