Friday, 4 Dec 2020

Oxford coronavirus vaccine ‘works as expected' and triggers 'strong immunity’

The coronavirus vaccine being developed at Oxford University is working well and has been shown to produce a ‘strong immune response’ in volunteers, studies show.

Instead of using a weakened strain, or small parts of it, like traditional vaccines, the Oxford jab directs the body to produce part of the virus itself.

Researchers led by the University of Bristol found it effectively delivers genetic instructions telling the body how to make the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Once the protein is replicated, the immune system then reacts to it – training the body recognise the disease and be able to fight it off without the person falling ill.

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Dr David Matthews, from Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM), led the research.

He said: ‘This is an important study as we are able to confirm that the genetic instructions underpinning this vaccine, which is being developed as fast as safely possible, are correctly followed when they get into a human cell.

‘Until now, the technology hasn’t been able to provide answers with such clarity, but we now know the vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness.’

Sarah Gilbert, who leads the Oxford University vaccine trial, added: ‘The study confirms that large amounts of the coronavirus spike protein are produced with great accuracy, and this goes a long way to explaining the success of the vaccine in inducing a strong immune response.’

The positive development comes after the government’s chief scientific adviser warned that a widespread roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine is unlikely before Christmas.

Sir Patrick Vallance told a Downing Street press briefing this week that ‘things are progressing well’ with vaccines ‘that produce an immune response’ in phase three clinical trials.

But he added: ‘I remain of the view that the possibility of wider-spread use of vaccines isn’t going to be until spring or so next year, by the time we get enough doses and enough understanding of the outputs to use them.’

Sir Patrick said ‘the aim that we would all wish for’ would be a vaccine which would allow the ‘release’ of lockdown measures such as social distancing and the compulsory wearing of masks.

He later told a meeting of the Lords’ National Security Strategy Committee he believes it is ‘unlikely’ we will end up with a vaccine ‘that completely stops infection’, with the more likely scenario being ‘that the disease will circulate and be endemic’.

Sir Patrick went on: ‘Clearly, as management becomes better, as you get vaccination which will decrease the chance of infection and the severity of disease, or whatever the profile of the vaccines are, this then starts to look more like annual flu than anything else.

‘That may be the direction we end up going in.’

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