A clinical trial of a candidate for a coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford scientists showed remarkable results, raising hope that preventive treatment for the deadly pandemic may be on the horizon.
As BBC News reported, universities and pharmaceutical companies across the world are racing against time to get a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 — the official name of the pathogen causing the COVID-19 pandemic — up and running. Normally, developing a vaccine is a process that takes years, not weeks or months. But with hundreds of thousands of people dying, time is of the essence when it comes to getting ahead of this particular virus.
Researchers at Oxford have developed a potential vaccine, dubbed ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, that has moved from the development stage to clinical trials involving human test subjects.
Based on a trial involving 1,077 test subjects, the vaccine did what it was supposed to do produced antibodies and T-cells in the patients.
The Role Of Antibodies And T-Cells
Vaccines work by directing the immune system to produce antibodies. The proteins, produced when a dead or weakened pathogen enters the immune system, linger in the body. As such, when a living pathogen invades the body, it is ready to fight off the infection.
However, there are other tools that can be used when it comes to fighting off infection. Another weapon is T-cells — a type of white blood cell that can detect which of the body’s cells have been infected with a virus and direct the immune system to destroy them.
Professor Andrew Pollard, from the Oxford team, says that the results are encouraging, but it’s too early to claim victory in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
“They’re extremely promising and we believe the type of response that may be associated with protection. But the key question everyone wants to know is does the vaccine work, does it offer protection… and we’re in a waiting game,” he said.
The new vaccine does, however, produce side effects in some individuals. None of them are fatal or even severe, however. Nonetheless, 70 percent of the patients in the trial developed either a fever or a headache.
The results of the first round of clinical trials are preliminary and aren’t enough to safely conclude whether or not this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. The next round will involve 10,000 patients in the U.K. alone, plus 30,000 people in the U.S., as well as 2,000 in South Africa and 5,000 in Brazil.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously said that he’s confident that a coronavirus vaccine will be available by the end of this year, or by 2021 at the latest.