Imperial's coronavirus vaccine could be available in early 2021

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus

Lockdown is easing across the UK but life is far from the pre-coronavirus “normal” in the absence of a vaccine that has been proven to be safe and effective.

The UK government has helped to kick-start development of two potential COVID-19 vaccine candidates from Oxford University/AstraZeneca, and Imperial College, London. 

While AZ’s vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is already in phase 3, Imperial’s potential vaccine is at the start of the clinical trial process.

And even if the trials do work out, there are concerns about who will receive them first as various governments attempt to make deals with pharma companies ahead of definitive trial results. 

While AZ has already promised to provide 400 million doses to the US and UK, and supply doses to a host of other countries if the vaccine works, the latest from Imperial is that its candidate could be rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year. 

Professor Robin Shattock, who is heading the team at Imperial College that is developing the vaccine, told Sky News that he anticipates definitive trial results at the beginning of next year. 

He said: “Assuming funding is there to purchase, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year.” 

There are 21 vaccines in clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization, with AZ’s vaccine one of the most advanced and Imperial’s near the bottom of the list. 

In the meantime health secretary Matt Hancock has said that the government is tackling more than 100 outbreaks each week. 

In England beauty salons, spas, tattoo parlours and nail bars welcomed back their first clients in nearly four months as lockdown restrictions eased. 

Although some treatments such as eyebrow threading are still banned, it’s a step change in the restrictions that have brought much of the UK’s economy to a standstill over the past few months. 

But health secretary Hancock said that the government has been able to take a “targeted” approach thanks to increased testing. 

The most recent example was an outbreak of 73 cases that were confirmed at a farm in Herefordshire, where around 200 workers have been told to self-isolate. 

It is also two weeks since Hancock announced Leicester would be the first city in the UK to be put under a local lockdown. 

Restrictions on Leicester are expected to be reviewed this week, amid criticisms that the city-wide lockdown was unnecessary. 

Feature image courtesy of Rocky Mountain Laboratories/NIH