Two vaccine trials in the UK

There are two vaccine trials soon to start in the UK. One is the Oxford University trial which will see actual vaccine injected into volunteers starting this Thursday. Last Sunday Sarah Gilbert, the vaccinologist leading this development, was interviewed on the Andrew Marr show. Here it is below:

Imperial College London is also developing a vaccine and they’re recruiting volunteers now for an expected start in June. If you’re healthy, based in London, and between 18 and 55 you can volunteer here. Professor Robin Shattock who is leading the Imperial College development was interviewed today on BBC Sounds.

The interesting thing about a vaccine trial is once healthy people have been given the vaccine, they then have to sit and wait to become infected, which may never happen for some. If rates of infection in the community are low then it will take much longer to get results. Nevertheless, both Sarah Gilbert and Robin Shattock sound very optimistic. I guess every scientist is naturally optimistic about their work and if they didn’t then presumably they wouldn’t pursue the research. Robin Shattock specifically mentions in the BBC Sounds interview that coronavirus seems easier to develop a vaccine for than some other viruses because it has so far been relatively stable. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Lately, I’ve noticed the words “herd immunity” have developed negative connotations. But in the absence of treatment, herd immunity remains our only way to end the epidemic. An epidemic ends when enough people in the population have become immune to the disease either through having had the infection themselves or vaccination such that they no longer contribute to disease transmission. This is herd immunity.

I don’t think we should count our chickens before they hatch but having listened to both groups of scientists now, I feel a bit more optimistic that we may get a vaccine sooner rather than later. It will truly be the best outcome we could hope for. Additionally, the doses are smaller for the Imperial College vaccine which means it will be very easy to scale so let’s cross our fingers for the success of that one.