‘Genuine hope’ vaccine is months away


Health Minister Greg Hunt says there is genuine hope a vaccine being developed in the UK will be available in the first half of next year.

Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, Mr Hunt said "safety" remained the number one concern for any vaccine that was used.

"There is genuine cause for hope and optimism for Australians on the path to a vaccine," he said.

"We have been very cautious and that's why we were able to look very carefully before choosing our vaccine candidate.

"We'll continue to review the evidence. But each day I'm quietly becoming more hopeful and more optimistic about the prospect for vaccines for Australians in the first half of 2021, with the earliest available in the first quarter of 2021."

But the UK Government's leading life sciences adviser has warned a coronavirus vaccine won't be ready in time for the second wave.

Sir John Bell, 68, who sits on the UK's vaccine taskforce and is also Oxford University's regius professor of medicine, has warned that while the majority of vaccines take around eight years to develop, experts have only been working on a COVID-19 one for "just eight months".

The comments come after Oxford University restarted its key clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine - after it was halted when a volunteer suffered a suspected serious adverse reaction.

Australia will be one of the first countries to get the vaccine when and if it is safe to use after Prime Minister Scott Morrison secured a deal for 25 million doses.

The Medicines Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) confirmed that it was safe to resume trials in a boost to the UK's efforts to secure a COVID-19 vaccine.

Recently, the vaccine progressed to Phase 3 testing, which meant it was able to be trialled on large numbers of patients across different geographies.

By last week, around 30,000 people in the UK, the US, Brazil and South Africa had taken part, in a tie-up with pharma giant AstraZeneca.

With the testing now back on, a vaccine could possibly be ready by the end of the year.

But Sir John told the UK Daily Telegraph: "We're not going to beat the second wave now."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC last week that AstraZeneca had already started to produce doses of the vaccine.

"We've got 30 million doses already contracted for with AstraZeneca," Mr Hancock had said.

Sir John warned: "We're probably right at the front end of the second wave now, but a vaccine might arrive towards the end of the second wave".

"We're probably about three to four months ahead of anybody else with a practical vaccine".

AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical giant working alongside the University, also said the suspension is "routine" and is to be expected in large and significant vaccination trials.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has secured 25 million doses of the potential vaccine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has secured 25 million doses of the potential vaccine.



Details of the "potentially unexplained illness" reportedly suffered by the volunteer remain unclear.

The New York Times reports that the volunteer was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome affecting the spinal cord, though this has not been confirmed.

It comes as a big boost to the UK's most high profile vaccine trial - which previously has shown strong immune responses in volunteers.

No unexpected adverse reactions were recorded prior to Tuesday, although more than half of 1000 participants reported mild or moderate side effects including headaches and muscle pain.

Oxford's vaccine is one of two currently being developed in the UK, alongside Imperial College London.

Late last month, AstraZeneca began recruiting 30,000 people in the US for its largest study of the vaccine.

It also is testing the vaccine in thousands of people in the UK, and in smaller studies in Brazil and South Africa.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission



Originally published as 'Genuine hope' vaccine is months away