The World Health Organization is tracking 196 vaccine studies. Of these, 42 are undergoing clinical trials on humans, and eight are in phase three: large-scale trials to test their effectiveness. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have developed a vaccine based on the virus derived from chimpanzee, but the test was halted for a week after a volunteer fell ill – continuing in the UK, but not in the US. Another, NovaVax, is launching a large phase three trial after a study of 10,000 volunteers in the UK.
China and Russia have already approved some vaccines for limited use. The Wuhan Institute of Biological Products has a vaccine used on health workers in the United Arab Emirates, and says the Chinese government has approved its use in more than 100,000 people. CanSino Biologics is testing its vaccines on Chinese soldiers. Vladimir Putin is using the pandemic for propaganda: he claimed that the Russian Gamalaya Research Institute vaccine was approved in August (it was not), named it “Sputnik V” and believed to be abroad. The office has authorized a disinfection campaign to target the AstraZeneca trial.
Vaccine Taskforce President Kate Bingham says a “slim chance” may come after Christmas. But she expects it to be here “early next year”. The Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority must first approve any vaccine, and then manufacture and distribute it. Pharma companies have already made millions of doses of some drugs in trials, but delivery may be more complex. According to the economist, many vaccines are required to be kept cool before use, so seven “nightingale vaccination centers” have been found, including Leeds Town Hall and Woking Leisure Center.
Will I be vaccinated?
It depends: Are you elderly, who are considered medically extremely unsafe or work for the NHS? If so, you are likely at the head of the queue. But younger and fitter people who are not necessary workers will probably have to wait too long.
Publishers like Welcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar have reported that it would be unethical for wealthy countries like the UK and US to vaccinate while others fight for scrap. Farrar believes that only 20% to 30% in the UK will initially require a vaccine.
We cannot be sure that vaccines will mean the end of lockdown. Scientists advised politicians to lock in the virus to prevent it from spreading so rapidly that hospitals go out of bed to treat the sick – whether they have Kovid-19 or some other deadly disease. First vaccines may only be partially effective, and may not protect everyone. Bingham said that flu vaccines are only 50% effective. We may need masks and social distancing at least until July 2021.