Allahpundit mentioned this earlier but it’s pretty exciting news so I wanted to go into it a bit more. Researchers at Oxford University expect to start a human trial of their coronavirus vaccine by the end of May. That means that, if the vaccine works, we could see the first million or so doses by September of this year.
Most other teams have had to start with small clinical trials of a few hundred participants to demonstrate safety. But scientists at the university’s Jenner Institute had a head start on a vaccine, having proved in previous trials that similar inoculations — including one last year against an earlier coronavirus — were harmless to humans.
That has enabled them to leap ahead and schedule tests of their new coronavirus vaccine involving more than 6,000 people by the end of next month, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.
It may be a couple months before we have human test results, but scientists at an NIH lab have already tested the vaccine on monkeys and it worked:
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana last month inoculated six rhesus macaque monkeys with single doses of the Oxford vaccine. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the virus that is causing the pandemic — exposure that had consistently sickened other monkeys in the lab. But more than 28 days later all six were healthy, said Vincent Munster, the researcher who conducted the test.
“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” Dr. Munster said, noting that scientists were still analyzing the result. He said he expected to share it with other scientists next week and then submit it to a peer-reviewed journal.
The researchers are concerned that the trials could be hampered if the spread of the coronavirus in the population drops. That’s because researchers can’t intentionally infect people with a potentially deadly virus to see if the vaccine works. They have to rely on people who are part of the vaccine study catching COVID-19 in the wild. But if the UK infection rate drops significantly in the next month, it may be harder to verify the vaccine is working. A Chinese lab is working on a similar vaccine but they might have a hard time testing it since the number of new cases in China has been near zero (according to the CCP) for weeks.
Phase I of the Oxford trial is already underway. The Times reports it involves 1,100 people but this previous BBC report said it was 800:
Two volunteers were injected, the first of more than 800 people recruited for the study.
Half will receive the Covid-19 vaccine, and half a control vaccine which protects against meningitis but not coronavirus.
The design of the trial means volunteers will not know which vaccine they are getting, though doctors will.
Elisa Granato, one of the two who received the jab, told the BBC: “I’m a scientist, so I wanted to try to support the scientific process wherever I can.”
Here’s a BBC report on the Phase I trials. This is about 9 minutes long and goes into some detail. The medical researchers involved will only say they are pretty confident it’s going to work but if it does this will be a significant game changer, allowing us to get back to work and resume something like normal life without waiting for every part of the country to reach herd immunity.