Coronavirus vaccine could be rolled out in 'first half of next year', says UK professor

12 July 2020, 14:34 | Updated: 12 July 2020, 14:40

Professor Robin Shattock said a coronavirus vaccine could be rolled out in the UK next year
Professor Robin Shattock said a coronavirus vaccine could be rolled out in the UK next year. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A coronavirus vaccine could be rolled out across the UK in the first half of 2021 if trials are successful, a leading professor has said.

Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading a team developing a Covid-19 vaccine at Imperial College London, said there would be enough doses available for everyone in the UK if the trials go "really well".

However, he also warned there was "no certainty" any of the vaccines currently being developed would be successful, as their success is reliant on the level of immunity needed to prevent infection.

Speaking on Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he said: "So we anticipate if everything goes really well that we'll get an answer as to whether it works by early next year.

"And we have put in place the infrastructure to make that vaccine for the whole of the UK.

"So, assuming that the funding is there to purchase that vaccine, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year."

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So far, 15 volunteers have been vaccinated in the trial, which will be increased to include another 200-300 participants in the "coming weeks," he said.

Researchers developing the vaccine do not currently know what level of immunity people need to prevent infection, meaning the chance of success is "difficult to predict," according to Prof Shattock.

"If you only need a very small amount of immunity, I suspect most of the vaccines that are being developed will actually work, but if you need a very strong immune response or a particular quality of immune response, we'll see that actually it will be shaking out to some of these candidates," he told the programme.

"We hope we will be the candidate, one of the candidates, that is successful, but there's no certainty with any individual approach."

Although development is also taking place at the University of Oxford, Prof Shattock said that a vaccine being made available by September "feels very optimistic" - in part due to the number of infections falling in the UK.

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A coronavirus vaccine depends on the level of immunity needed to prevent infection
A coronavirus vaccine depends on the level of immunity needed to prevent infection. Picture: PA

Asked if there was a chance a vaccine might not work, he replied: "Now I think that's a very low, low risk.

"I think we're very lucky in the UK that we have two very strong candidates, the one from Imperial, the one from Oxford, and so we're pretty well placed, but there's still not a certainty that either of those two will work."

Due to the urgency of the coronavirus crisis, any vaccine will need to be introduced "very cautiously", according to Prof Shattock, as the normal full trials will not take place.

"I think the wire pressure is actually there's such a push to develop a vaccine that normally, we would study a vaccine for two years before we made it widely available to the general public," he told the programme.

"And, of course, we won't have two years of safety for this vaccine or any of the vaccines that are being developed.

"And so they still will need to be introduced very cautiously, with long-term follow up, as that pressure to get a vaccine in and to get economies up and running is really very strong."

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