13 June 2020, 10: 58 | Updated: 13 June 2020, 11: 01
By Seán Hickey
The accelerated development of a coronavirus vaccine could mean the UK is fully vaccinated by Christmas.
Sir John Bell is Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University. He is leading a team working on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine and he spoke to Matt Frei on the possibility of a vaccine being available by Autumn.
“When will you know for certain when this candidate vaccine is the right one” Matt asked the vaccine developer, to which he said that “it’s realistic to think we can get a pretty good signal by the end of August.”
The question of how the vaccine will be rolled out on a mass scale has been a question whenever the topic of a coronavirus vaccine has come up. Sir John told Matt that Oxford’s partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has already kickstarted a massive manufacturing campaign and they in turn “persuaded other manufacturers to go at risk” in manufacturing before there is any approval.
He told Matt that the benefit of the accelerated manufacturing could lead to vaccinating the population much earlier than initially predicted. “If everything goes to plan we can start vaccinating people in September” he told listeners.
Matt wanted to know when the whole British population could be vaccinated, whereby Sir John noted that it could be ready “by Christmas”. He added that his team have “changed the approach to vaccines forever” in their manufacturing of a vaccine before approval, which he claims has sped up the process by three months.
Matt wanted to know if there is a possibility that the vaccine won’t work, to which Sir John told him that unfortunately “most vaccines don’t work.”
He added that the Oxford researchers have worked on overdrive on the development of the vaccine, sharing that it “normally takes 8 years to develop a vaccine, we’ve been working on this about 18 weeks.”
Matt wondered if there is pressure on regulators to approve the vaccine if the vaccine “is already mass produced before approval. Sir John scoffed at these suggestions, noting that regulators are professional and clinical in their approach to such trials and vaccines.
“We want to work hand in hand with the regulator” he said and broke down for Matt how his team has been careful to try work alongside regulators through the process so the decision can be made easier but conceded that “it is up to them to make the decision” on whether a vaccine is suitable or not.