Across the pond in the United Kingdom, the University of Oxford team that is working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and has teamed up with AstraZeneca, a British pharmaceutical giant, researchers are taking huge strides in the effort to find an effective vaccine against the deadly virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide in months. While there are dozens of teams across the world working on a vaccine, from governments to private entities, to partnerships between the two, it appears that the Oxford team, which is led by Sarah Gilbert, a leading expert on vaccine production, has taken the lead in creating a vaccine that will help people fight the virus.
Yes, it appears the UK’s vaccine is actually working. But. But. But. BUT: Don’t get ahead of yourself: just because early trials of the vaccine have been successful doesn’t mean that production will roll out at the end of the month. Still, this is a momentous development for the fight against the virus.
This has been months in the making. In April, Gilbert and her team at the Jenner Institute at Oxford had already started a human trial on 1,100 people, and by the beginning of this month, had finished vaccinating 10,000 trial subjects, well before other companies have begun to test on the same scale.
That being said, being the frontrunner in vaccine production and testing doesn’t necessarily mean that the Oxford team will come up with the most effective vaccine in the fight against COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the leader in the United States’ COVID-19 response, has said as much about the front-runner for the vaccine. “You’ve got to be careful if you’re temporarily leading the way vs. having a vaccine that’s actually going to work,” he said to BBC. The reality is that most vaccines — even those that make it to big trials — don’t get licensed, and right now, it’s unclear what bar a COVID-19 vaccine will have to clear in order to be licensed and considered a safe and effective vaccine.
But, by September, the world should know the results of the massive UK COVID vaccine trial, per Gilbert, and right now, she likes her chances: she says she currently believes it has an 80% probability of being effective in stopping people who are exposed to coronavirus from actually developing the virus. If the Oxford vaccine is not effective, there are dozens of other vaccine development teams at prestigious universities, through the NIH and other government programs, and through massive for-profit companies that are conducting their own research and study. In the United States, the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved for final testing just yesterday, and will start a 30,000 person trial by the end of July to see how effective the vaccine is, and more vaccines are still in development. No matter what, a COVID-19 vaccine will be on the way in the future, even if it’s not Gilbert’s.