Vaccine trial begins but ‘mass programme still months away’

Two volunteers have been injected – a coronavirus vaccine candidate and one with a meningitis vaccine acting as a control.

The first human tests of a potential coronavirus vaccine have begun – but the lead scientist has warned a mass vaccination programme is still many months away.

So far, only two volunteers have been injected – one with a coronavirus vaccine candidate and one with a meningitis vaccine acting as a control.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: “The reason we stuck with two volunteers is to make sure there are no unintended effects and we will monitor them very closely over the first few days.

“Then we will move on to some larger groups of individuals over the next few weeks.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said the scientists didn’t expect to see an immune response for the next 10 days or two weeks after the vaccine has been administered.

Prof Pollard said the volunteers that have been injected with the vaccine will not be deliberately exposed to the virus but will instead wait until they come across it in the community.

“Of course there isn’t very much virus around in the community at the moment – the lockdown has had a big impact on transmission,” he said.

“So it is difficult to predict exactly when they will meet the virus and it may be some months before that happens.”

He said unlike other diseases, there is not yet a “human model” for Covid-19, meaning scientists do not know what is a safe dose to give volunteers in vaccine trials.

The trial on people at Oxford University started on Thursday, two days after the UK Government health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “I am certain we will throw everything we’ve got at developing a vaccine.”

More on