A potential coronavirus vaccine will be trialled on humans this week by researchers at the University of Oxford, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says.
The team hopes to have at least a million doses of its vaccine ready in September, clearing the way for an easing of lockdown restrictions.
Meanwhile, Imperial College London said it plans to start clinical trials in June and have results available as early as September. But first, it must look to recruit healthy adults.
The British government has faced increasing scrutiny for being too slow to react to the virus outbreak, not guaranteeing widespread availability of testing and failing to ensure healthcare workers had enough personal protective equipment.
The bad news is continuing for Britain, with latest data showing the number of people killed by the virus could be 40 per cent higher than the government’s daily figures had indicated.
Numbers are being revised to include not just patients who died in hospital, meaning Britain might actually have lost as many people as Spain and France have.
No doubt determined to provide some hope of a way out of the dark times, Mr Hancock has promised the government will “throw everything” at the two vaccine studies.
NEWS: The first human trials for vaccines begin in the UK on Thursday. We’re giving the 2 leading UK vaccine teams at Oxford & Imperial all the support they need to make it happen pic.twitter.com/VGVwqyNpJ2
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) April 21, 2020
The vaccine developed by the Oxford team, led by Professor Sarah Gilbert, will be tested on people this Friday (Australian time).
“In normal times, reaching this stage would take years and I’m very proud of the work taken so far,” he said at a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday (Australian time).
“At the same time, we will invest in manufacturing capability so that if either of these vaccines safely work, we can make it available for the British people as soon as humanely possible.”
The process of finding a vaccine would involve “trial and error” but he has told British scientists he would “back them to the hilt and give them every resource they need”.
“The upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it,” he said.
Coronavirus deaths could be underestimated in data
A total of 17,337 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospitals in Britain, an increase of 828 on the figure published 24 hours earlier, health ministry data showed.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 130,172, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The true extent of Britain’s COVID-19 death toll, however, is not reflected in hospital numbers that exclude deaths in care homes, private residences and hospices.
Data published on Tuesday indicated the number of deaths was more than 40 per cent higher than the government’s daily figures had indicated as of April 10. That puts the country on track to become among the world’s worst-hit.
The Office for National Statistics said it recorded 13,121 deaths by April 10 in England and Wales, which account for the vast majority of Britain’s population, compared with 9288 in the government’s daily toll for those who died in hospital.
The latest hospital deaths data published on Monday show 16,509 people had died across Britain.
If the government figures have underestimated the death toll by a similar figure, then true number of fatalities in the country as a whole could be more than 23,000, based on the latest data – making it the second-worst hit in Europe after Italy.