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Coronavirus vaccine trial could fail because COVID-19 is disappearing too quickly, says researcher

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The good news is, the coronavirus pandemic appears to be waning nearly as quickly as it began. But the bad news is, the disappearance of COVID-19 may be happening faster than researchers can develop a vaccine to combat it, should the disease return in the fall.

As such, a COVID-19 vaccine trial in the United Kingdom that has been eagerly anticipated only has roughly a 50 percent chance to succeed, down from 80 percent, according to the scientist who is co-leader of the development.

“It is a race, yes. But it’s not a race against the other guys. It’s a race against the virus disappearing, and against time,” Prof. Adrian Hill told The Telegraph, as coronavirus infections rapidly recede.

The experimental vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is among the leaders in the world race to develop some protection from the deadly disease that originated in China. Early data from a small trial of the vaccine, also known as AZD1222, in a half-dozen monkeys found that some of the animals given the compound were able to develop antibodies against COVID-19 within 14 days. All of them developed antibodies within 28 days, researchers said.

Hill then led a University of Oxford team into human trials in April, which made AZD1222 one of the fastest to reach that level.

However, Hill told The Telegraph that the trial, which has managed to enroll about 10,000 adults and kids in Britain, could ultimately fail because COVID-19 is vanishing fast in the United Kingdom.

“We said earlier in the year that there was an 80 percent chance of developing an effective vaccine by September,” he said. “But at the moment, there’s a 50 percent chance that we get no result at all.”

Researchers have teamed up with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. One of the company’s executives, Mene Pangalos, noted that the clinical trials were proceeding faster than normal as well.

“The speed at which this new vaccine has advanced into late-stage clinical trials is testament to Oxford’s groundbreaking scientific research,” he said, The Epoch Times noted.

But time is not something everyone seems to have. And while it’s a good thing the virus is quickly dissipating, it also means the window for developing a successful vaccine is also closing rapidly, The Epoch Times noted.

“If transmission remains high, we may get enough data in a couple of months to see if the vaccine works, but if transmission levels drop, this could take up to six months,” AstraZeneca said in a statement, adding that it signed a $1.2 billion contract with the U.S. government to make 400 million doses of the vaccine.

Because the virus is disappearing quickly, there have been some calls in the research community and in Congress to intentionally infect volunteers with coronavirus so they can be utilized for further vaccine research.

In an April 20 letter to the heads of the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, 35 lawmakers urged them to explore all options in an effort to close in on a vaccine.

Such research is called a human challenge study and is considered controversial in some scientific circles.

Earlier this month, President Trump announced “Operation Warp Speed,” the United States’ Manhattan Project-style program to rapidly develop a coronavirus vaccine.

“This is an endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project…No one has seen anything like we’re doing now within our country since the second world war. Incredible,” he said.

Jon Dougherty


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