A COVID-19 vaccine may come out before the year ends, earlier than previous predictions that the production process might take a year or more. Researchers at Oxford University in England said their vaccine showed positive effects and million doses could be available by September.
The team at the university’s Jenner Institute said the vaccine has already been proven harmless to humans in tests with other forms of coronavirus in the past year. That put them a few steps ahead of other ongoing experiments around the world.
Most researchers need to start with small clinical trials. The Oxford team has been authorized to move to a combined Phase II and Phase III trial in May with more than 6,000 people to prove the effectiveness and safety of their potential coronavirus vaccine, the New York Times reported Monday.
Aside from the past year’s study, a test in March at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana provided new evidence that the Oxford vaccine works against COVID-19. Six rhesus macaque monkeys that received single doses were able to avoid infection even after exposure to heavy quantities of the virus.
“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” Vincent Munster, one of the researchers who conducted the test, said. The team has yet to publish the findings in a peer-reviewed journal.
In the upcoming large-scale human trial, the Oxford researchers could consider the test as successful if a dozen participants in the placebo group become sick with COVID-19 compared to only one or two persons who receive the vaccine.
“It is a very, very fast clinical program,” Emilio Emini, a director of the vaccine program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said. “This big U.K. study is actually going to translate to learning a lot about some of the others as well.”
If the Oxford trial fails, the study will still have a significant contribution to the global effort to find an effective vaccine for COVID-19. Other research teams could use data from the study to understand the nature of the coronavirus and how the immune system responds to infection and treatments.