A scientist heading the human trials for a possible Covid-19 vaccine has said volunteers are “critically important” to their research.

Speaking on the BBC’s Radio4 programme, Professor Robin Shattock, who heads Imperial College London’s vaccine team, said researchers are looking for more healthy participants to take part in their clinical trials.

Prof Shattock, who is head of mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial, said: “We are starting with a very few number of volunteers so we don’t want people to be disappointed if they are not immediately engaged in clinical trial.

“But we are looking for those volunteers and they are critically important.”

The first part of the clinical development is to check that it is really safe because it is going to be used in the general population

The first phase of the clinical trials is set to begin this week with 300 people, and a further trial involving involving 6,000 people is planned for October.

If these prove successful, Imperial hopes the vaccine could be distributed in the UK and abroad early next year.

Their RNA vaccine works by delivering genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the “spike” protein on the surface of coronavirus.

The presence of this protein provokes an immune response, offering protection against Covid-19.
Prof Shattock told Radio 4: “The first part of the clinical development is to check that it is really safe because it is going to be used in the general population.”

He added that checks would also be made to ensure that the vaccine candidate “induces the right kind of immune response that we would predict would be protective”.

Prof Shattock continued: “We will move into large-scale efficacy trials in October. Then it’s a numbers game. It depends on how many infections are ongoing in the community.

“If we see a lot of infection, we may get a result fairly quickly. If there are very few infections, obviously it will take a lot longer to get enough data to be able to prove that the vaccine works or not.”

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