Scientists at Oxford University say they are confident that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be widely available by September — long before health officials anticipated.
The vaccine, one of 89 currently in development around the world, has taken significant steps forward in recent weeks. On Monday, the New York Times reported that the researchers had inoculated six rhesus macaque monkeys with single doses of the vaccine before exposing the monkeys to heavy quantities of the virus. Nearly a month later, while other monkeys in the lab got sick, the six vaccinated monkeys remained healthy.
Large-scale human testing is underway
Now, researchers are testing the vaccine on humans, and not just on a handful. They'll have more than 6,000 tests conducted by the end of May.
Oxford researchers say they have been able to move so quickly because they had been using similar technology to develop a vaccines for other viruses, including one very similar to COVID-19.
"Well personally, I have a high degree of confidence about this vaccine, because it's technology that I've used before," said Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford University.
According to CBS News, "the vaccine takes the coronavirus' genetic material and injects it into a common cold virus that has been neutralized so it cannot spread in people. The modified virus will mimic COVID-19, triggering the immune system to fight off the imposter and providing protection against the real thing."
Oxford says coronavirus vaccine could be ready by September youtu.be
Millions of doses are already being produced
Though clinical trials are still underway, the world's largest drugmaker has already decided to mass-produce doses for distribution.
The Serum Institute of India said on Tuesday that it plans to produce up to 60 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year, Reuters reported. The company made the decision after the vaccine proved to be effective in animal trials and progressed to human testing.
"They are a bunch of very qualified, great scientists [at Oxford University] ... that's why we said we will go with this and that's why we are confident," Serum Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla told Reuters over the phone.
"Being a private limited company, not accountable to public investors or bankers, I can take a little risk and sideline some of the other commercial products and projects that I had planned in my existing facility," he added.