The findings from a potential coronavirus vaccine trial have been celebrated, with Boris Johnson deeming it a ‘step in the right direction’.
Scientists at the University of Oxford have revealed they are currently working on a vaccine that is safe and induces an immune reaction.
Researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 with the World Health Organisation following the development of over 140 candidate vaccines.
Professor Sarah Gilbert from Oxford said that after intensive research they were ‘more than happy with the first results’.
She told the Guardian: “We’re really pleased that it seems to be behaving just as we thought it would do. We have quite a lot of experience of using this technology to make other vaccines, so we knew what we expected to see, and that’s what we have seen.”
While Boris Johnson explains this as ‘very positive news’ he added: “There are no guarantees, we’re not there yet and further trials will be necessary – but this is an important step in the right direction.”
Matt Hancock said: “Very encouraging news. We have already ordered 100 million doses of this vaccine, should it succeed.”
Despite this, Professor Gilbert and her colleagues will not predict when the vaccine will be available, explaining ‘none of us have a crystal ball’.
While the lockdown drastically reduced the circulation of COVID-19 and saved many lives it also made it very difficult to trial vaccines.
The study released the results on Monday, which involved 1,000 healthy volunteers half of which were given the vaccine and half were given meningitis vaccine.
The results were a ‘really important milestone’ according to Professor Andrew Pollard, lead author on the study.
He added: “We are seeing exactly the sort of immune responses we were hoping for, including neutralising antibodies and T-cell responses, which, at least from what we’ve seen in the animal studies, seem to be those that are associated with protection.
“We just don’t know what level is needed if you meet this virus in the wild, to provide protection, so we need to do the clinical trials and to work that out.”
Pollard added that researches should be able to find out this from the vaccine trails which will help vaccine developers.
He explained: “We don’t know what high is. We’ve got immune responses that we can measure, we can see the virus being neutralised when the antibodies are tested in the laboratory, but we don’t know how much is needed. I mean it’s encouraging but it’s only the first milestone on this long path.”
While some scientists are hopeful that a vaccine could be ready by autumn, others have avoided speculation over when it could be available at this early stage.
Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, which is the pharmaceutical company that developed the vaccine alongside the Oxford scientists, has said that if successful, the vaccine could be distributed as early as the end of 2020.
He told reporters: “We’re working as quickly as we can but of course there are things that we cannot control, in particular the infection rate in the community which influences the results. We’re basically starting the manufacturing process in parallel to running the clinical trials.
“Our hope is that we can actually start delivering the vaccine before the end of the year, and how early before the end of the year depends really on infection rates in the community.”
This was backed up by Kate Bingham, the UK Vaccine Taskforce’s chairwoman, who told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ‘optimistically we will be vaccinating by the end of the year’, before adding that she wouldn’t ‘go to the bank on it yet’.
In an ideal world, the coronavirus vaccine will help fight any risk of infection however scientists have already accepted that instead, the vaccine will reduce the severity of the disease instead and in turn reduce the risk of death.
A further question is how long any immune response will last and how regularly people will need booster shots.
However, Gilbert explains that the work so far suggests this will not be a problem. The vaccine is delivered in an inactivated chimp adenovirus (similar to the common cold in humans) and there have been concerns that this might be recognised and rejected by the immune system.
“We actually show in the paper that there are some antibodies that develop against the vaccine vector itself – against the adenovirus – it doesn’t stop the vaccine from boosting,” she said.
There are also other questions as to the success rate of the vaccine on older adults. Safety trials have already begun in two groups of adults, one in 56-69 and the other in over-70s, says Gilbert.
“The immune system has two ways of finding and attacking pathogens – antibody and T-cell responses. This vaccine is intended to induce both, so it can attack the virus when it’s circulating in the body, as well as attacking infected cells,” said Pollard.
“We hope this means the immune system will remember the virus, so that our vaccine will protect people for an extended period. However, we need more research before we can confirm the vaccine effectively protects against Sars-CoV-2 infection, and for how long any protection lasts.”
Other scientists have cautiously welcomed the study in a similar response to a second paper published in Lancet which showed trials of Wuhan of a vaccine developed in China. This used a similar process, using a human adenovirus vector showed it was also safe and generated an immune response.
Head of global policy and advocacy at the research charity Welcome Trust, Alex Harris said the Oxford University result was “just one crucial step but it’s very encouraging, and builds on the incredible global research effort during this crisis.
“To see promising results from several candidates in months is remarkable, but we must also be prepared for some candidates to fail in the later stages and be realistic about time frames for manufacturing and roll-out.”
Greater Manchester Nightingale Hospital open again due to high levels of coronavirus
The Nightingale Hospital for the North West will open later this week and house non-Covid patients.
The temporary facility to treat patients with Covid-19 opened originally in April but has been closed in summer.
However, later this week it is set to reopen for non-Covid patients.
It is set to reopen as figures show the number of coronavirus patients being treated in the North West is now approaching the level it was in the first surge of the virus.
A spokesperson said: “The NHS Nightingale Hospital North West will accept patients from today to provide care for those who do not have Covid-19, but do need further support before they are able to go home, such as therapy and social care assessments.”
As of October 26th, North West hospitals had 2,407 patients with coronavirus, the highest number of cases since April 23rd.
Dr Jane Eddleston, medical director of the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Nightingale will not be used as a critical care facility and neither was it in the first phase. It will be used as a facility for patients to have additional rehabilitation.”
Sacha Lord says 10pm curfew will be reviewed next month
Greater Manchester’s Night Time Economy Adviser, Sacha Lord, has said the government will review the 10pm curfew in November.
All hospitality venues must shut their doors at 10pm under current laws, however, Sacha Lord and other industry members have been campaigning the curfew.
Since September 24th, when the curfew was put in place, the #CancelTheCurfew movement has been backed by a number of industry professionals.
The Parklife founder, Lord, filed a pre-action letter last night which claimed there was no scientific justification of the Tier 3 regulations and the limits on pubs and bars operating hours.
Lord has tweeted that the government ‘are reviewing the UK 10pm curfew’ in November.
He wrote: “In November, the Government are reviewing the UK 10pm curfew.
“It doesn’t work for the public or operators.
“Overloaded transport, crowded takeaways, supermarkets etc.
“It’s doing far more harm than good. Operators are running safe and secure COVID19 venues.
“Cancel the Curfew”
Lord confirmed they had a formal response from the government regarding the judicial review where he said ‘we consider it insufficient’.
He added “I cannot go into detail, but I can say that we have considered it and it is insufficient. I have instructed my lawyers to commence legal proceedings.”
Lord is now backing the OneGM campaign, which sees different sectors of the industry coming together to show support for businesses and people in Greater Manchester.
It is unclear yet when Greater Manchester will be removed from Tier 3 restrictions.
Dr Hilary backs calls for tier 3 restrictions across all of England by Christmas
It’s not looking good.
Dr Hilary has responded on GMB this morning to reports that the whole of England should be in tier 3 by Christmas.
It comes following some reports that all of England could be placed under the strictest coronavirus restrictions by mid-December.
The UK deaths hit their highest level in five months on Tuesday, when 367 new fatalities linked to coronavirus and nearly 23,000 more cases were recorded.
The Sun explained that SAGE member, Professor Sir Mark Walport said it is ‘not unrealistic’ to think that 25,000 people could be in hospital with Covid-19 by the end of November.
With total Covid related deaths reaching 61,000 across the nation, there are predictions that figures will be higher than the Spring peak come December.
Members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Body (Sage) are reportedly warning that virus rates all over the country will soar past the levels seen in areas in the North already.
A government source also told The Sun ‘the latest Sage numbers are utterly bleak.’
According to the Daily Telegraph, ‘Downing Street is working on the assumption that the second wave of COVID-19 will be more deadly than the first.’
From next week parts of Nottinghamshire and Warrington will be placed into Tier Three.
This means that more than eight million people in England, predominantly in the North, will be under the most stringent Covid-19 restrictions by the end of the week.
The Environment Secretary, George Eustice, told Sky News: “The prime minister has been very clear, as we all are, that we want people to celebrate Christmas in a way that is as close to normal as possible.
“But it is too early to be able to say exactly what the situation will become Christmas, and exactly what different parts of the country will or will not be able to do.
“Obviously checking the spread of this virus is paramount, but alongside that we want people to live their lives as close to normal as possible, including at Christmas which is an incredibly important time for families.”
Dr Hilary Jones spoke on Good Morning Britain this morning explaining that a vaccine ‘won’t stop a rise in infections’.
Jones said: “Just look at the figures, the hospital admissions are increasing, doubling every two weeks. In a month from now, we’ll be worse than we were in the first wave.”
He said: “We can’t rely on a vaccine, we hope it will save people from dying but it won’t stop infections, not the early vaccine anyway.”
Adding that: “I think we still need to rely on the basic principles which is hands, face, space and if we all do that and we’re realistic and don’t say Christmas is an exception.
“If we make Christmas an exception, then every celebration will be an exception. A birthday, a Friday night, a promotion…”