Covid-19 vaccine trials due to begin in healthy volunteers

Human trials for a coronavirus vaccine in the UK are due to get under way, with hundreds of people volunteering to be part of the study.

Researchers from the University of Oxford will administer the first dose to a healthy person on Thursday afternoon, while another will be given a meningitis vaccine, used in the trial for comparison.

The Oxford Vaccine Group hopes to repeat the process with six more volunteers on Saturday, moving to larger numbers on Monday.

Up to 1,102 participants will be recruited across multiple study sites in Oxford, Southampton, London and Bristol.

Coronavirus – Fri Apr 17, 2020
Some of the vaccine doses in bottles (Sean Elias/University of Oxford/PA)

Lydia Guthrie, who will begin taking part in the Oxford vaccine trial in a week, told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: “They’ve (the clinical team) been very clear with participants about the potential risk, and vaccine trials are very carefully regulated, so we’ve had to give explicit consent at every step of the way.

“They’re really clear with us that as participants we can pull out at any time if we change our minds.”

She added that after receiving either the Covid-19 vaccine candidate or the meningitis jab, she would go about her normal life, keeping a diary about how she feels, or any symptoms.

Asked whether she is scared about the process, Ms Guthrie said: “I think I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have some trepidation or nerves about it – I mean, at a really basic level, I don’t really like needles.”

She added: “I guess when I saw the advert looking for participants, it felt to me like a small contribution I can make to this team of over 500 participants and scientists and clinicians working hard together to develop a vaccine.”

John Jukes, from Witney, Oxfordshire, is expected to get his injection on Monday.

He told the Daily Mail: “I don’t see what I am doing as being heroic at all. I’m in a position to possibly be helpful to lots of people – that’s an opportunity to grab.

“Nobody is escaping this virus and what it has done to the way we live.

“If everybody shied away from helping to find a vaccine, then one might not be found.”

A Covid-19 vaccine is considered the ultimate exit strategy by many experts, and scientists across the world are racing to develop one that can be produced at scale.

The Oxford team hopes to have at least a million doses of its candidate ready in September.

Another institution hoping to have a vaccine ready for use by the end of the year is Imperial College London.

The researchers say a vaccine may be available for frontline workers and the most vulnerable by late winter, with clinical trials starting in June.

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