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When a coronavirus vaccine might be available after initial trial creates an immune reaction

This is good news!

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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. 

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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.”

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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’.

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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.”

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Police seize over £3m worth of counterfeit goods in Cheetham Hill raids

GMP are stamping down on ‘the illegal distribution of counterfeit items’, and ‘the supply of illicit prescription drugs’

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Police have seized over £3m worth of counterfeit goods in a series of Cheetham Hill raids conducted as part of their ‘crackdown’ on counterfeit fraud.

According to a statement issued by Greater Manchester Police last night, Officers from City of London, North West Regional and Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU), Border Force, Immigration and local officers yesterday executed their tenth raid on Lockett Street and Bury New Road.

There, £1million’s worth of goods including clothing, accessories, bags, perfume and jewellery were found and seized. This added to the other £2m worth of goods found across the last week. 

Six men, all aged between thirty-six and sixty-one, have all been arrested and released under investigation pending further enquiries, according to the force.

The raids come as part of GMP’s Operation’s ‘Magpie’ and ‘Cranium’, which aims to tackle ‘the illegal distribution of counterfeit items’, and tackle ‘the supply of illicit prescription drugs’.

Inspector William Jennings-Wharton from the Cheetham Neighbourhood team said in a statement: “This is all part of our continued work to tackle organised crime taking place in Cheetham Hill and I want to reassure the local community that we are listening to their concerns and this week’s action is all part of our continued crackdown.

“Counterfeit goods and drug dealing will not be tolerated and all of these raids are a huge step in really driving a wedge in organised crime in the area.

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“Counterfeit goods are not a victimless crime – though these desired items may look good and are cheap, they are funding a wider picture that involves money laundering, organised crime and cheap labour.

“The profits from such businesses can be used to fund other serious crime, and often with that comes violence which can have a devastating ripple effect on communities and nearby legitimate businesses.”

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council added: “Counterfeit crime runs far deeper than just the sale of knock-off coats and handbags [as] there are deep links to other criminal enterprises and the sale of fake goods only puts money in the hands of criminals. 

“We remain committed to tackling this practice at the source and will continue to work with our partners in the police to secure prosecution against perpetrators… And get fake goods off our streets.”

Anyone with information has been encouraged to report it online or by using the LiveChat facility at www.gmp.police.uk or by calling 101. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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This is why some supermarkets are refusing to enforce the new face mask rules

Supermarket bosses have spoken out

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A number of supermarkets have addressed the reason they won’t be enforcing the new face mask rules that are now mandatory across the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the return of face masks and self-isolation over the weekend in a bid to tackle the new Omicron variant, which is believed to be ‘more transmissible and have more mutations which could weaken the effect of vaccines and natural immunity.’ 

However, despite the mandate being backed by the government, a number of supermarket bosses announced that they would not be enforcing masks upon their customers.

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Iceland was the first supermarket to announce its stance on the matter, with the chain’s managing director Richard Walker saying he wouldn’t be asking staff to enforce the new restrictions as they focus on the ‘long-term recovery of the high street.’

Walker told The Daily Mail: “We fully support the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in shops, however, we won’t be asking our store colleagues to police it.

“Our store teams, alongside all retail workers, have shown heroic efforts in terms of ensuring safety for customers and building back consumer confidence and it’s crucial that we stay focused on the long-term recovery of the high street.”

Supermarket giant Co-op has also said that they would not be enforcing face coverings in their stores – nor would they refuse to serve a customer without one.

The British Retail Consortium has said it’s down to the police to enforce the measure, saying, as per The Sun: “Customers are asked to respect the rules and be considerate to their fellow shoppers and to hard-working shop staff.”

Since then, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl have all echoed this stance, with each saying they have no plans to challenge customers over the wearing of a face covering in store.

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Alternatively, Asda and Morrisons have announced that they will be regularly enforcing the use of face masks while also handing out free masks to those who don’t have them, while Sainsbury’s said it will have ‘greeters and security guards at the front of our supermarkets’ to remind people to wear masks. 

A statement from the Government on the rule change read: “From 4am Tuesday November 30th, face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.”

All hospitality is exempt from the rule change. 

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Boris Johnson reveals plan to offer all adults booster jabs by the end of January

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The government plans on offering all adults booster vaccines by the end of January, Boris Johnson has revealed today.

The Prime Minister spoke at a Downing Street conference this afternoon where he announced the planned booster rollout will take place across 1,500 pharmacy sites across England in age order. 

Over 400 military personnel will help with the rollout, Johnson added.

Noting that it’s ‘time for another Great British vaccination effort’, Johnson said: “The target we’ve set ourselves is to offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January.

“As with the first jabs, we’ll be working through people by age group going down in five year bands, because it’s vital that the older and more clinically vulnerable get that added protection first.”

The Prime Minister stressed that even those who had their second jab over three months ago should wait until the NHS contacts them about a booster appointment.

This announcement comes as face masks are made compulsory once again in all shops and on public transport.

The government made the decision as part of its response to the new Omicron variant, which is said to be ‘more transmissible and have more mutations which could weaken the effect of vaccines and natural immunity.’ 

The change in rules was announced by the Prime Minister after cases of the new variant were detected at several locations across the UK. 

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed yesterday that all adults will be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine as part of a reaching expansion of the jabs programme to deal with the potential impact of the new variant.

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