Science

Oxford begins testing corona vaccine on humans: production ready for winter

Oxford University was one of the first in the world to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus that can be tested on humans. The UK university vaccinates one group with the vaccine and another group does not. For example, Oxford checks whether the vaccine is efficient enough. Oxford does state that the contamination curve in England is currently so low that it is difficult to prove the vaccine’s effectiveness on a large scale.

Bruno Holthof, the CEO of Oxford University Hospitals, states that some 120 vaccines are being developed worldwide against the coronavirus. Developers include Johnson & Johnson, CureVac and the NIAID.

Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson hopes to be able to conduct human tests in September, but Oxford University is ready. is already being tested on people. This is reported, among other things, by the British newspaper The Guardian.

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Twelve monkeys

EPA

In an initial phase, Holthof and his team tested the vaccine on monkeys. Six monkeys not receiving the vaccine became seriously ill after infection with the coronavirus. Of the other six monkeys that were therefore vaccinated, 5 monkeys had no symptoms and one showed mild symptoms. However, the latter animal was soon healthy again. So British researchers have managed to prove the vaccine’s effectiveness in infected animals, now it’s the turn of humans.

Holthof and his team were able to proceed to an initial test phase so quickly, because a similar vaccine for the MERS virus had previously been developed at Oxford University. Therefore, the British government quickly gave the green light to test the vaccine on humans.

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No deliberate contamination in humans

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Also in the human testing phase, individuals will be divided into two different groups. The first group is given the Oxford vaccine, the other group is vaccinated with a known vaccine with similar side effects. The infected subjects themselves do not know in which group they are divided.

If the vaccine works well, the researchers would find that people who were not vaccinated with the Oxford vaccine are more likely to become infected than people who are given the Oxford vaccine. That would mean that the Oxford vaccine also works well in humans. However, it remains to be seen for Holthof and his team, because these people will not be intentionally infected. Only if enough people in the control group come into contact with the coronavirus can the researchers definitively find out whether the Oxford vaccine works effectively.

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Low contamination curve

EPA

Holthof says the contamination curve is currently very low in England, which is a good thing and avoids overload in hospitals. The British researcher does point out that developing a vaccine makes it a lot more difficult. According to him, the epidemic is “no longer sufficiently present among the population to prove the effectiveness of the vaccine in England”: “That also happened with the MERS vaccine: the epidemic was over before we could test for effectiveness.”

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Mass production by private companies

In addition, the mass production of the Oxford vaccine is already regulated. In England, two private companies are currently producing the vaccine on a large scale, and the University of Oxford has also signed contracts with producers in Italy and India to set up production worldwide. According to Holthof, production of the vaccine in England should be ready before the winter of this year.

However, whether the Oxford vaccine can be administered immediately among the population is still far from certain. For example, everything depends on the speed with which the effectiveness of the vaccine can be sufficiently proven in humans.

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