- A team of British scientists thinks it can have a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus ready by this fall — as soon as September, according to the team’s lead researcher.
- This news comes as the global death toll from the coronavirus has passed 100,000, and Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson who’s tested positive for the coronavirus was recently moved into intensive care.
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The global toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus has reached another grim milestone, surpassing 100,000 deaths from the virus, while the world waits to see the first tangible results from teams spanning multiple countries that are racing to make a vaccine ready.
To that end, scientists in Britain provided new hope over the weekend that a finished product is coming soon, and perhaps much sooner than even the most optimistic experts predicted. Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, told The Times of London that the team of scientists that she leads — one of dozens around the world trying to develop a vaccine — could have one ready as soon as September. And that, at least at this point, she’s “80% confident” that it will be a successful vaccine.
The British government, for its part, is watching this closely and has already made it clear it will provide funding in advance for millions of doses if this treatment looks like it would work. That way, the vaccine would be available to millions of people immediately once it’s ready. And that’s also important, because manufacturing the vaccine doses at scale could take months, which is why significant advance work is required.
“That is just about possible if everything goes perfectly,” Gilbert told the newspaper, adding that human trials are starting in two weeks. “We have to go for that. Nobody can give any guarantees, nobody can promise it’s going to work and nobody can give you a definite date, but we have to do all we can as fast as we can.”
Having a vaccine that fast would be welcome news indeed especially in Britain, which is about to begin its fourth week under lockdown. Almost 10,000 people have died in the UK to-date from the coronavirus, and the country’s chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance has warned that the number of deaths is going to keep going up for at least a few more weeks.
“We are going to need to do studies in different countries because the amount of virus transmission is affected by the lockdowns,” Gilbert said. “Total lockdowns do make it harder. But we don’t want the herd immunity either. We want them to be susceptible and exposed for the trials purely to test the efficacy. It’s a question of timing, it’s not easy to predict which continents or countries will be the best places to test.”