UK scientists racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine believe they’ve made a breakthrough in early trials of an experimental vaccine that could offer “double defense” against the virus, The Daily Telegraph reported this week.
Researchers at Oxford University began human trials of a coronavirus vaccine in April. Blood samples taken from a group of volunteers in the UK who got a dose of the vaccine showed both antibodies and T cells, a source told The Telegraph.
T cells can kill a virus and the cells it has infected, providing an important part of the body’s response to viral infections. The discovery is promising because two recent studies have indicated that antibodies may disappear within weeks or months while T cells may stay in the body for much longer, The Telegraph reported.
The source told The Telegraph that a combination of T cells and antibodies would “hopefully keep people safe.”
At least 124 coronavirus vaccines are in development, with at least 10 being tested in people. But scientists don’t yet know whether it’s possible for any vaccine to give a person long-term immunity to COVID-19.
David Carpenter, the chair of the Berkshire Research Ethics Committee, which approved the Oxford trial, told The Telegraph that the team was “absolutely on track” and that the vaccine — if it is found to be effective — could be available as early as September.
“Things might go wrong, but the reality is that by working with a big pharma company, that vaccine could be fairly widely available around September, and that is the sort of target they are working on,” he said.
The full findings of the first trials are set to be published in The Lancet on Monday, The Telegraph reported.
Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, told ITV’s Robert Peston on Wednesday that while the “best-case scenario” is a vaccine available this year, it’s more likely that one will be ready by next year.
“We’re all working towards the best-case scenario,” he said. “We’re giving AstraZeneca and the team at Oxford and the Imperial vaccine every possible support. We’re working with the other potential vaccines around the world, in America and Germany and the Netherlands.
“We’re working with them to ensure that if they come off first that we’ll get access to them here. But this is an inexact science, and it’s at risk.”