Tests of an experimental coronavirus vaccine have showed promising results on animals. Now, the leading British experts are all set to begin human trials, and are confident they can get jab for the incurable disease rolled out by autumn.
The team of experts have announced they are confident that the jab will be available to millions by September.
However, public health officials say it will still take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine – despite human trials beginning.
Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology, admitted that this time frame was “highly ambitious” many things could get in the way of that target.
Oxford’s vaccine programme has already recruited 510 people, aged between 18 and 55, to take part in the first trial.
They will receive either the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine – which has been developed in Oxford – or a control injection for comparison.
The new vaccine comes from chimpanzees, who are injected with the coronavirus to produce antibodies that can be used to bolster the immune system of humans.
The vaccine, developed by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group clinical teams, is hoped to be ready by September.
Speaking to the BBC World Service Professor Adrian Hill, who will lead the research, said: “We are going into human trials next week.
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“That’s not good enough to supply the world, obviously.
“We are working with manufacturing organisations and paying them to start the process now.
“So by the time July, August, September comes – whenever this is looking good – we should have the vaccine to start deploying under emergency use recommendations.
“That’s a different approval process to commercial supply, which often takes many more years.”
Professor Hill added: “There is no point in making a vaccine that you can’t scale up and may only get 100,000 doses for after a huge amount of investment.
“You need a technology that allows you to make not millions but ideally billions of doses over a year.”
The Oxford team are one of hundreds worldwide racing to develop a COVID-19 jab, which experts fear could take over a year to complete.
More than 70 vaccines are currently in development, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).