The global race to create a coronavirus vaccine is well underway and it seems the world’s top university has jumped ahead of the pack.
Researchers at Oxford University have started injecting humans with a potential Covid-19 vaccine as part of a large scale trial, after previous trials in apes proved promising.
Initial tests used Rhesus Macaque monkeys, which share 93 percent of their DNA with humans.
Six of them were given a dose of the vaccine and a month later they were all heavily exposed to coronavirus.
All six apes which were given the vaccine did not contract Covid-19, while all of the untreated monkeys in the control room became infected, the Sunday Project reported.,
Professor Sarah Gilbert, a vaccinologist at Oxford University, said she has a “high degree of confidence” in the vaccine because it is technology she has used before but expressed it is critical to get the data from humans.
This week 1,100 healthy volunteers received treatment.
In a bid to waste no time, the vaccine is already being manufactured by drug giant AstraZeneca in preparation but supply will be prioritised to UK citizens.
The goal is to have at least 30 million doses ready by September, so how long will it take for it to reach the rest of the world?
Dr Andrew Rochford told The Sunday Project there are many steps we need to go through to before it reaches Australian shores.
Firstly it needs to work in animals and it must then be effective and safe in humans. But problems may be encountered during the manufacturing and distribution process.
For instance, the Ebola vaccine took five years to become commercially available but he explained the Covid-19 vaccine is being fast-tracked due to its urgency.
Dr Rochford said part of the new Covid-19 vaccine has already been used in previous vaccines for diseases such as MERS and Ebola.
“All they’ve done is taken the Covid-19 bit and put it on the end,” he said.
“They [scientists] already know this part of the vaccine is really safe and useful. All we need to do is make sure the bit that gets our immune system up and running is effective which is why they can fast-track it.”
He added the “reality of this” is the vulnerable, including the elderly or healthcare workers, would be the first to receive such a vaccine while the rest of the community will be pushed to the back of the queue.
“We need to make sure we can get on top of this pandemic fast, so we need to give it to those who need it most first,” Dr Rochford told the panel.
The vaccine takes the coronavirus’ genetic material and injects it into a common cold virus that has been neutralised so it cannot spread in people.
The modified virus will mimic Covid-19, triggering the immune system to fight off the imposter and providing protection against the real thing.
During the human trials, 550 participants will be given the vaccine and another 550 receive a placebo.
“It feels like finally, I am able to do something,” Oxford scientist and trial volunteer Elisa Granato said.
“This was a way for me to contribute to the cause.”
With CBS News.