Oxford COVID-19 vaccine developer cautious on 2020 roll-out

A employee is seen at the Reference Center for Special Immunobiologicals (CRIE) of the Federal University of Sao Paulo (Unifesp) where the trials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine are conducted, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 24, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 July 2020

Oxford COVID-19 vaccine developer cautious on 2020 roll-out

  • Oxford/AstraZeneca shot showed promise in early-stage trials
  • Medical officials differ on potential timeline for vaccines

LONDON: The University of Oxford’s possible COVID-19 vaccine could be rolled out by the end of the year but there is no certainty, the lead developer of the vaccine said on Tuesday.
The experimental vaccine, which has been licensed to AstraZeneca, produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials, data showed on Monday, preserving hopes it could be in use by the end of 2020.
“The end of the year target for getting vaccine roll-out, it’s a possibility but there’s absolutely no certainty about that because we need three things to happen,” Sarah Gilbert told BBC Radio.
She said it needed to be shown to work in late-stage trials, there needed to be large quantities manufactured, and regulators had to agree quickly to license it for emergency use before large numbers of people could be vaccinated.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and his deputy Jonathan Van-Tam took differing views on the potential timeline.
“The chance of us getting a vaccine before Christmas that actually is highly effective are, in my view, very low,” Whitty told lawmakers.
Van-Tam, however, said he was “cautiously optimistic that we will have some vaccine this side of Christmas.”
The Oxford scientists had eyed a million doses of the potential vaccine to be produced by September.
Although the deal with AstraZeneca has provided manufacturing capacity to do that, the lower prevalence of the novel coronavirus in Britain has complicated the process of proving its efficacy.
Late-stage trials crucial for providing data are under way in Brazil and South Africa and are due to start in the United States also.
There are no approved vaccines yet for COVID-19, but the World Health Organization has said AstraZeneca’s shot is one of the leading candidates.


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 56 min 8 sec ago

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.