AstraZeneca, Oxford should know by July if coronavirus vaccine works

Live samples in test tubes are held in a container Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, on April 22, 2020.

Andrew Milligan | WPA Pool | Getty Images

The U.K. will know by July whether its Covid-19 vaccine is effective, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said Thursday.

The company announced Thursday that it had partnered with Oxford University to help develop and distribute the vaccine being researched by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group.

Under the agreement, AstraZeneca would be responsible for the worldwide manufacturing and supply of Oxford’s vaccine, which entered phase one clinical trials last week.

AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” show that the company would know within months whether the coronavirus vaccine was effective.

“By June, July we will already have a very good idea of the direction of travel in terms of its potential efficacy,” he said.  

Soriot added that for the duration of the pandemic, AstraZeneca would be supplying the vaccine at cost.

“It is definitely a risk to launch into the development of the vaccine but now is the time to take those kinds of risks,” he told the BBC. “This is a terrible crisis we’re facing and … a vaccine is of course the number one tool we can bring to managing this.”

AstraZeneca also said on Thursday that data from the preliminary human trials could be available as early as May, with advancement to late-stage trials projected to go ahead by the middle of this year.

John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said in a press release on Thursday that the partnership with AstraZeneca would be “a major force in the struggle against pandemics for many years to come.”

“We believe that together we will be in a strong position to start immunising against coronavirus once we have an effective approved vaccine,” he said. “Sadly, the risk of new pandemics will always be with us and the new research centre will enhance the world’s preparedness and our speed of reaction the next time we face such a challenge.”

There are currently at least 89 vaccines for the coronavirus in development globally, according to the WHO. Experts have predicted that it will take between 12 and 18 months for a vaccine to be deemed safe for distribution to the market. 

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