A coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to be available before the year is out despite tens of millions of pounds being poured into UK trials that start imminently.
A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed at the UK’s University of Oxford is due to begin testing on human volunteers on Thursday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK was at the “forefront of the global effort” to produce a vaccine, and was investing in manufacturing capacity to ensure any successful candidate could be made available to the public as soon as possible.
“Vaccine development is a process of trial and error, and trial again,” he said, adding that the government was “throwing everything” at vaccine projects.
The University of Oxford will receive 20 million pounds ($24.5 million; €22.5 million) from the government, Hancock said. Another project at the Imperial College London will receive 22.5 million pounds.
The World Health Organization has said developing a safe vaccine will take at least 12 to 18 months, but scientists at Oxford say they expect to produce a million doses of an experimental vaccine as early as September.
Researchers at the University of Bern have said their newly developed vaccine against COVID-19 could be ready to roll out in Switzerland by October.
Immunologist Martin Bachmann, who works at the university, told journalists the international team had already conducted successful tests on mice. Vaccines are usually developed in labs before being tested on animals, and then ultimately on healthy humans in a multi-phase process.
Switzerland’s national regulatory body, Swissmedic, told German press agency DPA that while the October goal was optimistic, the vaccine could be approved for use before the end of the year if it meets all safety requirements.
“It is not totally far-fetched,” Swissmedic spokesman Lukas Jaggi said. “Given the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic, we are talking about weeks, not months of approval procedures.”
Meanwhile, the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche has said it’s unlikely a coronavirus vaccine will be available before the end of 2021. The company is preparing to launch an antibody test to let people know if they have ever had the virus next month.