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Coronavirus vaccine: Doctor outlines crucial requirements for COVID-19 vaccine trials

Trials of COVID-19 vaccines from Oxford University and Imperial College London will begin on Thursday. Dr Katrina Pollock, the principal investigator for the coronavirus vaccine trials at Imperial College London, told LBC’s Nick Ferrari how the trials will work. She said: ”This is the start of the first of the clinical trials in the UK. This is the beginning of testing one of two candidate vaccines in human trials.


“Work on the vaccine started very early in the year. Within the first couple of weeks of January, scientists were able to sequence the virus in China, which means that we were able to understand it very quickly.

“From that moment on, work to create a candidate vaccine moved forward at a great pace.”

Asked what the criteria to be considered as participants for the trials are, she said: ”There are a number of criteria that people need to fulfil to be eligible to be involved in this early stage vaccine trial. They are usually quite strict so we can see understand the vaccine is performing.

“As we understand the vaccine and the responses, then we move to larger phase two or phase three trials where we include more people. Ultimately, what we want is a vaccine that is going to protect people from this infection, especially the vulnerable and the elderly.

“These early trials will last up to one year. But the early part of the trials, we’ll get data coming through all the time.

“It’s normal for us to follow up with volunteers who have been in the trial for quite a long time afterwards, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get data coming through right from the beginning.”

Asked when she believes the vaccine will be available to the public, Dr Pollock said: “I’d like to say as soon as possible – there is a great need for this vaccine.

“We’re looking at a timescale of months while we trial this vaccine. As we come towards the end of this first trial of the vaccine, we’ll be able to say far more clearly when that’s going to be.

“We’re pushing ahead really quickly so we have some answers on how these vaccines are behaving by the autumn.

“Having a product available by the autumn will be ambitious. We will know more after we start these first trials.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government is “throwing everything” at developing a coronavirus vaccine as he announced the human trials led by the University of Oxford and Imperial College.

Mr Hancock said it was clear that the “best way to defeat coronavirus is through a vaccine” and that “rapid progress” was being made.

Oxford, where the team is being led by Professor Sarah Gilbert, has said it hopes to have at least a million doses of its vaccine ready in September, while Imperial hopes to start clinical trials in June.

Professor Robin Shattock, from Imperial College’s Department of Infectious Disease, said COVID-19 is a less difficult target than diseases such as HIV or influenza.

“I think we are very confident that some vaccines will come through and work,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“There are so many groups working on different approaches and the virus is not as difficult a target as some of the things we have seen before.

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“The main issue is that it doesn’t seem to be changing very much.

“So it is a target we have in our sights and it is very different from influenza, which changes every year.

“As long as this virus stays relatively stable it will be very easy to lock our sights on it in terms of targeting a vaccine.”

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  • Posted on April 22, 2020