Scientists ‘hopeful’ of news on other vaccines before Christmas

Researchers are “really hopeful” of news on other vaccines before Christmas, a scientist has said

Professor Robin Shattock, from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, who is leading the vaccine team, told BBC breakfast: “Obviously, the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, we anticipate that there may be a result anytime soon, before Christmas.”

“And there are a number of other vaccines that may come through shortly after that.

“All these vaccines will have different levels of immunity and may be useful for different populations, so we need as many vaccines as possible to be able to combat this pandemic, and make them globally available.”

He said the Pfizer/BioNTech announcement is “great news” for all those working on vaccines.

“It’s great news, it’s still early, but it’s the first evidence that this is a vaccine-preventable disease,” he told BBC Breakfast.

Asked which stage the Imperial vaccine is at, Prof Shattock said: “We’re using a similar technology, it’s RNA-based.

“Ours is slightly different because it has an amplification process that means we can use a lower dose.

“We’re selecting the final dose next month and then we’re ready to go into large efficacy testing in the UK, with the potential of going for approval in the summer.

“That’s entirely dependent on us getting sufficient support from the vaccine taskforce to deliver on those tight timelines.”

He also said people who previously tested positive for the virus would benefit from “boosting with a vaccine”.

Asked if there is any point in having a vaccination if you have had Covid-19, he told BBC Breakfast: “Obviously the vaccine needs to be prioritised, so it will be prioritised to the most vulnerable first of all.

“But we certainly think, longer term, people will benefit from boosting, even if they had coronavirus.

“Because natural infection gives a very variable level of protection, we don’t know how good it is, and some people may be protected for a significant period, some people may get very little protection from natural infection, so boosting with a vaccine definitely will provide some benefit.”

Asked how scientists know whether the vaccine is safe for people with underlying health conditions, he told BBC Breakfast: “First of all, we always test on healthy individuals to make sure it’s really safe.

“But, as the vaccine is introduced, we will be looking at its safety in individuals with other underlying health conditions, and looking at how well it works.

“And that’s another reason why we need a range of vaccines, because some vaccines may work better in people with different underlying conditions.

“So it’s important to have a toolbox as full as possible, so we can make sure there is something that works for everybody.”

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He continued “The current vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, has been studied in 43,000 individuals, so we know it’s safe in terms of it doesn’t cause any acute problems.

“Long-term side-effects will be studied for the next two years. I think they are likely to be rare, but it’s something that will be followed very carefully.

“And it’s always worth putting it in context – the long-term side-effects of Covid-19 are way more dramatic than anything that we get from a vaccine.

“So, when you’re balancing that risk, obviously it’s going to prevent you from getting Covid-19, and it’s going to prevent you from all the risks of long Covid, or serious illness.”

He added: “So that equation is very clear in my mind. Vaccines are exceptionally safe medicines and they prevent really serious disease.”

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