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UK vaccine to be trialled on people

Clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine will begin on people from Thursday, Health Secretary Matt

Hancock has said.

The COVID-19 vaccine is being developed by scientists at the University of Oxford, who have said it has an 80% chance of success.

Mr Hancock told the government’s daily briefing that the Oxford trial and another at Imperial College London would each get at least another £20m of public money.

The Jenner Institute team at Oxford is starting production before the trial is complete and wants about a million doses ready to be sent out by September.

Mr Hancock said developing a vaccine is an “uncertain science” but that the two teams were making “rapid progress” and would be backed “to the hilt”.  However, he cautioned that “nothing about this process is certain”.

The Oxford vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is made from a harmless chimpanzee virus that has been genetically engineered to carry part of the coronavirus.  The technique has already been shown to generate strong immune responses in other diseases.  The trial will involve healthy volunteers and take place in Oxford and Southampton, with three other sites to be added later.

Meanwhile, the Imperial College London team has been testing its vaccine on animals since February and clinical trials are expected to start in June.  More than 70 vaccines are in development around the world but – alongside the US and China – the UK will become one of the few doing human trials.