Health

Jab to fight coronavirus by early next year says taskforce boss

Miss Bingham said: "I think we have a shot of getting a vaccine this year. There are two potential candidates. One would be the Oxford candidate and one would be the German vaccine from BioNTech. Those are the two that, if everything works, could potentially be manufactured and delivered this year. It's most likely to be early next year."

German firm BioNTech's jab, developed in partnership with Pfizer, induced a strong immune response in volunteers, who developed antibody levels up to four times higher than those found in patients recovering from COVID-19.

The UK has struck deals for 340 million doses of six promising vaccines from across the globe, developed with four different scientific approaches.

A handful of vaccines, including the Oxford one, are in phase three trials – the final stage needed to prove whether a drug is effective.

Miss Bingham said it was likely the first vaccines approved may not entirely prevent people catching COVID-19, but could stop them becoming seriously ill.

She said: "What I think we'll get is a vaccine that reduces the severity of symptoms so that people will stop dying and it will turn into something like flu."

A further 713 cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the UK yesterday, along with three deaths of people who died within 28 days of a positive test result.

More than 100,000 people have signed up to the NHS COVID-19 Vaccine Research Registry but the Government wants more of those from vulnerable groups to come forward.

Meanwhile, doctors will today urge the Government and NHS to ensure people who were shielding during the peak of the epidemic are not forced to return to work if they are still deemed to be at high risk.

Representatives from 12 health bodies, including the Royal College of GPs, issued a joint statement expressing "extreme concern" for patients.

Professor Donal O'Donoghue said: "Official shielding advice may have ended, but we cannot assume that patients who were previously shielding now no longer need protection from COVID-19."



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