Coronavirus Vaccine Update: UK's Oxford University begins coronavirus vaccine trial, Germany close behind

Coronavirus Vaccine Update: The first human trials of the potential COVID-19 vaccine will begin from April 23, 2020. 

Apr 22, 2020 14:30 IST
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Coronavirus Vaccine Latest Update: Oxford University in the United Kingdom has begun the much-awaited coronavirus vaccine trial on humans. The first two volunteers were injected with the vaccine on April 23, 2020. Germany has also approved the nation's first clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccine on human volunteers. 

Germany's medical regulatory body, the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) approved the nation's first clinical trials on humans on April 22, 2020. The potential coronavirus vaccine has been developed by German firm Biontech and US giant Pfizer. The UK and German coronavirus vaccine trials on humans are among the only five clinical trials approved across the world. 

With these trials, the race to develop a potential vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 virus has heated up. Besides these nations, the United States and China have also launched coronavirus vaccine trials. Many other nations including India are also exploring to develop a vaccine to end the coronavirus pandemic.

Oxford vaccine project

The University of Oxford in the United Kingdom has developed a potential coronavirus vaccine. The Oxford vaccine project involved several immunity and human genetics scientists and it was headed by Professor Sarah Gilbert. The research team began working on developing the coronavirus vaccine in January 2020. 

The vaccine has been developed from a harmless chimpanzee virus, which has been genetically engineered to carry part of the coronavirus. The vaccine trial will be conducted on about 510 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 years. The first two volunteers have already been injected with the vaccine.  Microbiologist Elisa Granato is one of the volunteers. As per leading scientists, the vaccine could potentially be effective and have given it an 80 percent success chance. 

How will it work?

The main idea behind inserting a part of the coronavirus, genes for spiky protein that forms the outer surface of COVID-19,  into a harmless virus is that the immune system will identity the foreign protein and create antibodies to fight it. This way, the antibodies will be primed to react quickly when the individual is actually exposed to coronavirus. 

Germany's vaccine trial 

The first phase of Germany's coronavirus vaccine trial will involve about 200 healthy volunteers between the age group of 18-55 years. They will be vaccinated with variants of the vaccine. In the second phase, the vaccine trials will be conducted on volunteers belonging to the high-risk age groups. The trials are expected to begin at the end of April 2020. 

Coronavirus Vaccine Trial in UK 

According to UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, the UK government is "throwing everything at" developing a new successful COVID-19 vaccine. The nation is providing all the required support to the two leading vaccine development teams at the universities of Oxford and Imperial College.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care made the announcement during a press briefing on the government’s Twitter handle. He announced that the vaccine from the Oxford project will be tested on people from April 23. Hancock continued by saying that in normal times, reaching this stage would have taken years.

Key Highlights 

The Health Secretary announced that the UK government will be making £ 22.5 million available to the imperial project to support their Phase 2 clinical trials that are going to assess a sample of several thousand for them to begin work on the subsequent Phase 3 trial. 

The UK government has also set aside £ 20 million for the Oxford team to fund their clinical trials. The team has accelerated its trial process, working with the regulator, NHRA, who have been excellent.

As a result of their efforts, the vaccine from the Oxford project will be trialed on people starting from April 23. 

Background

The two UK universities - Oxford and Imperial College have been making rapid progress in developing the vaccine for novel coronavirus, which has brought the entire world to a standstill and resulted in a heavy loss of lives. The United Kingdom has seen a steady rise of COVID-19 cases since the past couple of weeks. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself had tested positive for coronavirus. 

The UK Health Department had confirmed 129,044 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of April 21, 2020, which includes a total of 17,337 deaths. 

The UK authorities will finance the manufacturing capability of the vaccine. So, if either one of the vaccines is found to be working, it will be made available to the public as soon as possible. 

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