We’ve been inundated with news about COVID-19 these past few months, and we’re all wondering when this nightmare will finally be behind us. The reality is, the virus will only truly be in the rearview mirror once a vaccine is developed.
While there are many potential COVID-19 vaccines being developed around the world, one offers more hope than the rest due to the promise of a speedier timeline. The University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute is developing a vaccine that could be ready as early as September, and is currently undergoing human trials.
Since the lab had already made progress on previous work with viral vaccines, including one closely resembling COVID-19, the Oxford Vaccine Group had a head start in the inoculation race. Professor Sarah Gilbert, vaccinologist at the Jenner Institute and head of the Oxford team, has spoken optimistically of the vaccine in recent weeks, saying she believes it has an “80 percent chance of success.” She claims that if all goes well, it could be available for public use in September.
“Well personally,” said Gilbert, “I have a high degree of confidence about this vaccine, because it’s technology that I’ve used before.”
Giving researchers even more confidence are the results of the vaccine’s recent testing on monkeys. In late March, scientists at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana administered the Oxford vaccine to six rhesus macaques, a species that shares 93 percent of its DNA with humans.
“Vincent Munster, the head of the Virus Ecology Unit at the lab, told The New York Times, “The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans.”
After being given the vaccine, the monkeys were exposed to heavy levels of the coronavirus that had previously caused other monkeys to become sick. After 28 days, however, the vaccinated monkeys suffered no symptoms and remained healthy.
While this is no guarantee that the vaccine will work on humans, the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, is already manufacturing 40 million doses of the vaccine. It’s a gamble, but in the event that the Oxford vaccine is ultimately approved for public use, the Serum Institute will already have millions of doses ready to be distributed.