Vaccine scientist reveals major ‘dilemma’ with testing trials while UK lockdown in place

The hunt for a coronavirus vaccine may be most effective when the lockdown is eased, claims the scientist in charge. Professor Robin Shattock is the expert leading the COVID-19 vaccine trials at Imperial College. He addressed the tricky “dilemma” on Nick Ferrari’s LBC show, explaining why this may be the case.

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Professor Shattock told listeners: “The challenge is that we need to test the vaccine in the community to see if it prevents infection.

“That will probably not be in large trials until October time.

“Then it depends on how many people are being infected in the community as to how quickly we can determine whether it’s protecting people from getting the infection.

“So, in some ways, if social distancing and lockdown work really well, it will take us longer to determine whether a vaccine works.”

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He continued: “Obviously we would like there to be fewer infections, but that will be challenging in terms of the timelines of getting the numbers to prove that the vaccine is really working efficiently.

“That is always going to be the dilemma. What we are also looking at is whether we can start to think about doing a second vaccine trial somewhere else in the world where there might be higher incidents.

“It’s one of those things that we have to factor into the timelines.

“That’s why I can’t say we will know by this date because it requires getting those numbers.”

Testing for a COVID-19 vaccine started last week with both Oxford and Imperial College fast-tracking development.

The University of Oxford’s trial has moved into another stage of the process, according to a participant, bringing the reality of a potential cure closer.

Although the global search for a vaccine has massively ramped up, many do not believe it will be widely available until 2021.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock had shared the good news of the vaccine developments at a Government daily briefing.

He said: “In the long run, the best way to beat the coronavirus is through a vaccine.

“This is an uncertain science, but I am certain we will throw everything we’ve got at developing a vaccine.

“The UK is at the forefront of a global effort. We’ve put more money than any other country into the global search for a vaccine.

“For all the efforts around the world, two leading vaccine developments are taking place here at home at Oxford and Imperial.”

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