High Hopes for COVID-19 Vaccine Developed by Oxford Scientists

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If tests of the Covid-19 vaccine are successful, Oxford scientists hope to be able to begin supplying millions of them by September, a report by France 24 said Thursday.

A vaccine against the virus developed in Britain, it says, has shown very encouraging results on rhesus macaque monkeys, among the animals closest to humans. The scientists working on the vaccine estimate that if they can prove its effectiveness, it could be ready as soon as September.

Its name is a mouthful, but it’s the vaccine on everyone’s lips: The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, currently being developed by Oxford University scientists, has in recent days shot ahead to become the most promising potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

On Thursday, the British drug maker AstraZeneca said it would help Oxford develop, produce and distribute the vaccine.

“Our hope is that, by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalisation of a vaccine to combat the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic in a generation,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.

The partnership hopes to produce 100 million doses by the end of the year and prioritise supply in the UK, Soriot told the Financial Times.

The first good news came last week from a laboratory in the US state of Montana, where six rhesus macaques, who received a dose of the British vaccine a month ago, did not contract Covid-19 after being exposed to it. Other monkeys who had not been vaccinated caught the virus and fell ill.

“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” Vincent Munster, the scientist who conducted the experiment, told The New York Times.

Morgane Bomsel, a molecular biologist working on Covid-19 at the Cochin Institute in Paris, agrees. “It’s true that it’s better than if the tests had been carried out on mice,” she told FRANCE 24.

Bomsel considers the results encouraging, but warns against celebrating too soon, if only because details of the experiment conducted in Montana have not yet been published. “We don’t know yet, for example, what dose of the virus the macaques were exposed to, or how they were contaminated,” she said.