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Britain could still get a vaccine by CHRISTMAS, Sir Patrick Vallance says

Britain could still get its hand on a coronavirus vaccine before Christmas, the government’s chief scientific adviser today claimed.

Sir Patrick Vallance said it is ‘possible’ one of the dozens of experimental jabs being trialed on humans could be ready before 2021, insisting ‘good progress’ was being made. 

In televised address to the nation this morning, he said: ‘It is possible that some vaccine could be available before the end of the year in small amounts for certain groups.’

Matt Hancock has already promised the most vulnerable members of society will be the first to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with the elderly first in line. 

But Sir Patrick admitted it is ‘more likely’ that a vaccine — which is likely to require two doses to work — will be ready for the nation ‘over the first half of next year’. 

And the Health Secretary today revealed ministers were looking at ‘the first bit of next year’ for the mass roll-out of any jab proven to work.

Sir Patrick Vallance said it is 'possible' one of the dozens of experimental jabs being trialed on humans could be ready before 2021, insisting 'good progress' was being made

Sir Patrick Vallance said it is ‘possible’ one of the dozens of experimental jabs being trialed on humans could be ready before 2021, insisting ‘good progress’ was being made

AstraZeneca, the drug giant which owns the rights to the experimental jab, stopped global trials on September 8 because a British volunteer was hospitalised. Pictured: A volunteer gets a jab in South Africa

AstraZeneca, the drug giant which owns the rights to the experimental jab, stopped global trials on September 8 because a British volunteer was hospitalised. Pictured: A volunteer gets a jab in South Africa

Number 10 has already bought 340million doses of seven different experimental jabs, including the one created by Oxford University researchers.

The jab, being mass-manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, has yet to be proven to work but early studies have shown it is promising.

Trials of the jab were briefly halted a fortnight ago over safety fears. But they have since been started again in the UK but not the US, where regulators are said to be concerned about an adverse side effect. 

HUMAN TRIALS OF OXFORD’S VACCINE ARE STILL ON HOLD IN THE US 

Human trials of Oxford’s vaccine are still on hold in the US over safety concerns, two weeks after they were first paused.

AstraZeneca, the drug giant which owns the rights to the experimental jab, stopped global trials on September 8 because a British volunteer was hospitalised. 

Leaked documents claimed the patient, a 37-year-old woman, developed ‘transverse myelitis’ — inflammation around the spinal cord, typically triggered by viruses but a potential side effect of other vaccines. 

Doctors restarted trials in the UK five days later on September 12 after it was deemed safe to do so by an independent safety review committee and the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. They have also continued in Brazil, India and South Africa.

But regulators in the US have yet to resume the experiments over the incident, and are understood to be ‘highly concerned’ the jab may cause adverse reactions. 

The FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are seeking to determine what caused the reaction, such as whether it was the vaccine, an underlying medical condition or another unknown factor. 

It comes after President Donald Trump accused the FDA — with no evidence — of trying to delay a coronavirus vaccine until after the election for political purposes.

Trump reportedly wants to bypass normal US regulatory standards to fast-track Oxford’s vaccine for use in America by October — ahead of the presidential election in November.    

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH, last week claimed that it is ‘just a matter of time’ before the trial resumes in the US, offering hope the vaccine will be back on track to become one of the first approved.

Uncertainty remains about what happened to the unnamed woman, who received the first dose of the experimental vaccine in June and the second in August.   

AstraZeneca has repeatedly refused to confirm the diagnosis of transverse myelitis. It also insists there is no proof that the vaccine was to blame for the woman’s symptoms, which are believed to have now subsided.     

Brentford-based AstraZeneca’s chief executive claimed earlier on in the summer that it would ‘no doubt’ start to deliver the doses of the jab to No 10 by September. 

It is not clear if ministers already have a stockpile of the jab and are waiting for further evidence to prove it is safe, before embarking on a mass-vaccination programme.

Downing Street has also signed deals to buy vaccines made by BioNTech/Pfizer, Janssen, Novavax, GSK/Sanofi, and Valneva, if they are eventually proven to work. 

In the press conference alongside Professor Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick claimed good progress was being made on developing a vaccine that can fight Covid-19. 

He said a number of candidates have shown they can generate an immune response that ought to be protective. Nine are currently in final stage trials, known as phase three. 

Sir Patrick — who alongside Professor Whitty warned today warned the UK faces 50,000 new cases of coronavirus by the middle of October — added: ‘We don’t yet know they will work.

‘But there is increasing evidence that is pointing in the right direction and it is possible that some vaccine could be available before the end of the year in small amounts for certain groups.

‘Much more likely that we’ll see vaccines becoming available over the first half of next year, again not certain but pointed in the right direction, which then of course gives the possibility of a different approach to this virus.’

Mr Hancock today told ITV’s This Morning a ‘mass roll-out’ of a vaccine could be seen in the early part of next year if all goes well.

He added: ‘Hopefully in the first few months – there’s still a chance of it coming on stream before Christmas, but we’ve then got to roll it out and the first people who will get it are the people who are most vulnerable – people in care homes, older people.

‘There’s a series of different vaccines, but we are talking about – essentially, for it to have an impact on how we live our lives – we’re talking about the start of next year.’

Human trials of Oxford’s vaccine are still on hold in the US over safety concerns, two weeks after they were first paused.

AstraZeneca, the drug giant which owns the rights to the experimental jab, stopped global trials on September 8 because a British volunteer was hospitalised.

Leaked documents claimed the patient, a 37-year-old woman, developed ‘transverse myelitis’ — inflammation around the spinal cord, typically triggered by viruses but a potential side effect of other vaccines.

Doctors restarted trials in the UK five days later on September 12 after it was deemed safe to do so by independent experts. They have also continued in Brazil , India and South Africa.

But regulators in the US have yet to resume the experiments over the incident, and are understood to be ‘highly concerned’ the jab may cause adverse reactions.

The FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are seeking to determine what caused the reaction, such as whether it was the vaccine, an underlying medical condition or another unknown factor.

It comes after President Donald Trump accused the FDA — with no evidence — of trying to delay a coronavirus vaccine until after the election for political purposes.

Trump reportedly wants to bypass normal US regulatory standards to fast-track Oxford’s vaccine for use in America by October — ahead of the presidential election in November.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH, last week claimed that it is ‘just a matter of time’ before the trial resumes in the US, offering hope the vaccine will be back on track to become one of the first approved. 

WHICH VACCINES HAVE THE UK SECURED DEALS FOR? 

1. GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur: 60million doses 

The Government revealed on July 29 it had signed a deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur

If the vaccine proves successful, the UK could begin to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk from coronavirus, as early as the first half of next year, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said. 

Human clinical studies of the vaccine will begin in September followed by a phase 3 study in December. 

The vaccine is based on the existing technology used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. Genetic material from the surface protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is inserted into insect cells – the basis of Sanofi’s influenza product – and then injected to provoke an immune response in a human patient.  

2. AstraZeneca (manufacturing University of Oxford’s): 100million

AstraZeneca, which is working in partnership with Oxford University, is already manufacturing the experimental vaccine after a deal was struck on May 17.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the Oxford team, is confident the jab could be ready for the most vulnerable people by the end of the year.

Her comments came after the results from the first phase, published in The Lancet on July 20, showed promise.

The team have genetically engineered a virus to look like the coronavirus – to have the same spike proteins on the outside – but be unable to cause any infection inside a person. This virus, weakened by genetic engineering, is a type of virus called an adenovirus, the same as those which cause common colds, that has been taken from chimpanzees. 

3.  BioNTech/Pfizer: 30million 

US drug giant Pfizer – most famous for making Viagra – and German firm BioNTech were revealed to have secured a deal with the UK Government on July 20.

It reported positive results from the ongoing phase 2/3 clinical trial of one called BNT162b1 on July 1.  The company is still running phase 2 trials at the moment.

Pfizer’s vaccine is one called an mRNA vaccine, which do not directly inject bits of the virus into the body but send genetic material.

mRNA vaccines programme the body to produce parts of the virus itself by injecting the body with a molecule that tells disease-fighting cells what to build. The immune system then learns how to fight it.

4. Valneva: 60million 

The Government has given Valneva — whose vaccine is understood to be in the preclinical stages of development — an undisclosed amount of money to expand its factory in Livingston, Scotland. 

While the Government revealed a 60million dose deal on July 20, the company said it had reached agreement in principle with the UK government to provide up to 100million doses. 

Valneva’s jab is an inactivated whole virus vaccine, meaning it injects a damaged version of the coronavirus itself into the body.

The virus has been destroyed in a way that makes it unable to cause infection, but the body still recognises it as a dangerous intruder and therefore mounts an immune response which it can remember in case of a real Covid-19 infection. 

5. Janssen (Johnson & Johnson): 30million

The Government has agreed to buy 30million doses of a vaccine made by Janssen if it works.

Officials have agreed to help the company in its development of the jab by part-funding a global clinical trial. The first in-human trials of Janssen’s jab began in mid-July and are being done on adults over the age of 18 in the US and Belgium.

The jab is named Ad26.COV2-S, recombinant, and is a type of jab called a viral vector recombinant vaccine.

Proteins that appear on the outside of the coronavirus are reproduced in a lab and then injected into the body to stimulate an immune reaction.

The ‘Ad’ part of the vaccine’s name means it works using an adenovirus – a virus best known for causing the common cold – as a vehicle to transport the coronavirus genetics into the body.

6. Novavax: 60million

Britain has ordered 60million doses of a vaccine being developed by the US-based company Novavax. It will help to fund late-stage clinical trials in the UK and also boost plans to manufacture the vaccine in Britain.

Novavax’s jab, named NVX-CoV2373, showed positive results in early clinical trials.

It produced an immune response in 100 per cent of people who received it, the company said, and was safe and ‘generally well-tolerated’. 

Novavax’s candidate is also a recombinant vaccine and transports the spike proteins found on the outside of the coronavirus into the body in order to provoke the immune system. 

7. Imperial College London: Unknown quantity

Imperial College London scientists are working on Britain’s second home-grown hope for a jab. The candidate is slightly behind Oxford’s vaccine in terms of its progress through clinical trials, but is still a major player.

The UK Government is understood to have agreed to buy the vaccine if it works but details of a deal have not yet been publicised. 

Imperial’s jab is currently in second-phase human trials after early tests showed it appeared to be safe. 

Imperial College London will try to deliver genetic material (RNA) from the coronavirus which programs cells inside the patient’s body to recreate the spike proteins. It will transport the RNA inside liquid droplets injected into the bloodstream. 

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