Experts have cast doubt on the efficacy of the Oxford University vaccine, which has been tipped as a “front runner” in the race to develop a coronavirus jab.
Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, said yesterday the UK could vaccinate as many as 30 million people by the autumn if trials of the vaccine were successful.
“Whilst the vaccine induced neutralising antibodies and vaccinated animals experienced less severe clinical symptoms than unvaccinated animals (good), the neutralising antibody titres were low and insufficient to prevent infection and – importantly – insufficient to prevent viral shedding in nasal secretions (worrying),” said Professor Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh.
If similar results were obtained in humans, she warned, the vaccine would likely only provide partial protection against the disease, and would be unlikely to reduce transmission in the wider community.
These concerns were echoed by Professor Jonathan Ball, professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Nottingham, who said that while the fact that the virus prevented pneumonia in all of the vaccinated animals was encouraging, the amount of virus genome detected in the noses of vaccinated and unvaccinated monkeys is concerning.
He said: “If a similar thing occurs in humans, then vaccinated people can still be infected, shed large amounts of virus which could potentially spread to others in the community. If the most vulnerable people aren’t protected by the vaccine to the same degree, then this will put them at risk.”