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Scientists working on UK COVID-19 vaccine say there is now only a 50% chance of success due to falling cases

Published on 26/05/20 at 12:38pm
U.S. Army photo by Maria Yager

Researchers working on a COVID-19 vaccine are facing a race against time due to falling rates of the virus threatening the testing process of their candidate.

Adam Hill, the Director at Oxford University’s Jenner Institue, said that “there's a 50% chance that we get no result at all.’ Sir John Bell, an Oxford University regius professor of medicine, added: “You wouldn't start trials in London now for sure. The latest figures show 634 confirmed cases in the capital in the past fortnight

“In contrast, there was an increase of 163 on Friday alone in the northwest of England, taking the total in the region to 24,295 confirmed cases. The question is: can you chase the disease around the UK? Then there's the question about whether you chase it internationally.”

The trials of the vaccine, being developed in collaboration with AstraZeneca, began with an initial phase testing of 160 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 to see if it could effectively fight the virus. The study is set to expand to involve up to 10,260 and include children and the elderly. But if not enough people can catch the virus, the research team will not have enough evidence to prove whether it is effective or not.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is a weakened form of the common cold that causes infections in chimpanzees. The virus has been manipulated to not harm humans but contains part of COVID-19 to trigger the body’s immune response to the virus’s spike proteins, which it uses to enter human cells and multiply.

AstraZeneca has committed to the manufacture of 30 million vaccine doses by September this year.

Conor Kavanagh

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