The race for a Covid vaccine is reaching a crucial stage, with the glimmer of a possibility that one of the leading contenders will be approved by Christmas.
In an interview with the Guardian, Kate Bingham, who heads the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said the UK was in “a very good place”.
But there are still hurdles to clear in the coming weeks.
Within weeks, the first results to show whether one of the vaccines actually works will emerge. With a vaccine hailed as the world’s best hope of halting the deaths and the social and economic destruction wreaked by the Covid pandemic, the world is holding its breath.
It could be Oxford University, partnered with drug company AstraZeneca. It could be Moderna in the US. Or it could be Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.
All three have either recruited the last of the tens of thousands of volunteers they need for the critical final trials or will shortly do so.
And sometime in November or December, their independent monitoring boards will “unblind” their secret data to find out whether fewer people given the experimental vaccines are getting Covid-19.
The excitement is palpable. Bingham understands that.
“I can just see that it’s such an incredibly sensitive topic, that everyone is so desperate to be out of lockdown and get back to normal that everyone grabs at straws,” she said.
“I think my key message is we’re in a very good place. The UK is well set up, we’ve got a very attractive portfolio. We are absolutely well-planned and well-organised in terms of having the right vaccines and knowing when they’re arriving.”
The UK has bought six of the hundreds of vaccines under development. It has two of the three companies heading down the final furlong – AstraZeneca’s and Pfizer’s. Bingham says she thinks there is a chance of a vaccine before Christmas.
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