LONDON/ZURICH • A team from Oxford University in charge of developing a coronavirus vaccine said a decline in the infection rate will make it harder to prove if it has been successful.
“It’s a race against the virus disappearing, and against time,” Professor Adrian Hill, director of the university’s Jenner Institute, told The Telegraph newspaper over the weekend. “We said earlier in the year that there was an 80 per cent chance of developing an effective vaccine by September. But at the moment, there’s a 50 per cent chance that we get no result at all.”
Prof Hill said he expects fewer than 50 of the 10,000 people who have volunteered to test the vaccine trial in coming week to catch the virus. If fewer than 20 test positive, the results may be useless, the newspaper cited him as saying.
Although developers globally are working on as many as 100 experimental vaccines for Covid-19, the process is likely to take time.
Meanwhile, the head of the Gavi vaccine alliance said the first signs of the effectiveness of a vaccine may be available only in the autumn, forecasting a long road from there to broad availability.
“Unfortunately, we really do not know which vaccine will work and whether there will be one at all. If we’re lucky, we’ll receive indications in autumn,” Gavi head Seth Berkley told Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.
“But there will still be a long way to go from there until an approved active substance becomes available in large quantities for the global population.”
Calling for globally coordinated efforts both to produce and share an eventual vaccine, Dr Berkley said international agreement was needed to build up manufacturing capacity to rapidly produce a vaccine once one is found.
“(Countries) should work together in order to share in each other’s vaccines in case one’s own are not good,” he said, adding that it was possible some vaccines would work better for younger people and others for older age groups.
He also urged the World Health Organisation to issue clear guidelines on a vaccine’s use and distribution, saying should an effective vaccine become available in an initially limited supply, it should first be used to immunise health personnel.