A team of virologist working on a vaccine for the coronavirus at Imperial College London have just been awarded £1.8 million in funding to further their vaccine to human trials. Vaccinologist Prof Robin Shattock said early signs of efficacy in the trials could result in the vaccine being rolled out later this year. Asked about the timing of creating an appropriate inoculation against the deadly Covid-19, Prof Shattock said: “Well, from start to getting a licence to market the vaccine, that probably wouldn’t come through until next year.
“But there is an opportunity if either of the UK vaccines show early efficacy that they may get approval to be used prior to getting a marketing licence in the UK.
“For example, for frontline workers and vulnerable populations.”
The vaccinologist added: “So we might be able to see vaccine being rolled out later in the year.
“My own group has already secured a supply chain that could make up to 40 million doses by the end of this year.”
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But global health expert David Nabarro, who was once nominated for the post of World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general, warned there is no guarantee an appropriate vaccine will even be developed.
Speaking to The Observer at the weekend, Dr Nabarro said: “You don’t necessarily develop a vaccine that is safe and effective against every virus.
“Some viruses are very, very difficult when it comes to vaccine development – so for the foreseeable future, we are going to have to find ways to go about our lives with this virus as a constant threat.
“That means isolating those who show signs of the disease and also their contacts.”
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The expert added: “Older people will have to be protected. In addition, hospital capacity for dealing with cases will have to be ensured.
“That is going to be the new normal for us all.”
The coronavirus pandemic has killed a little over 16,000 people so far across the UK, with numbers expected to increase despite signs indicating the rate of infection has now slowed down.
The threat of additional deaths comes after the Government conceded NHS staff and social carers could face a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
A shipment of PPE from Turkey was due to arrive in the UK on Sunday but was delayed.
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The addition protective gear was ordered to “avert an absolute crisis over the weekend”, according to healthcare sources. But their delayed arrival could spark chaos.
NHS staff have been asked to treat patients without PPE but the British Medical Association (BMA) have said they would back any frontline staff member who refuses to treat a patient without the correct equipment.
Dr Chaand Nagpul, BMA council chair, said: “There are limits to the level of risk staff can be expected to expose themselves and their patients to. In the most extreme circumstances, if adequate protective measures are not in place, doctors can refuse to put themselves at risk of becoming infected, and inform their management to make alternative arrangements.”
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