Scientist Says Coronavirus Vaccine Could Be Ready by September

A researcher works on a vaccin against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020. - At Copenhagen university, a team of about 10 researchers is working around the clock to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 that could apply for clinical trial before within nine months. The vaccine will be based on two components : the protein which is on the surface of the coronavirus, called the spike protein that researchers express in the lab and then attach it on the surface of a virus-like particle. (Photo by Thibault Savary / AFP) (Photo by THIBAULT SAVARY/AFP via Getty Images) Thibault Savary/Getty

An Oxford University scientist said Friday that a vaccine for the novel coronavirus could be ready by September.

Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford, has been working on a vaccine with a team of researchers and could possibly develop a vaccine for public use by the fall, the London-based newspaper The Times reported.

"That is just about possible if everything goes perfectly. We have to go for that. Nobody can give any guarantees, nobody can promise it's going to work and nobody can give you a definite date, but we have to do all we can as fast as we can," Gilbert said in an interview with the newspaper.

The group has already developed a vaccine that is ready to go into clinical trials in two weeks. Gilbert said she gives the vaccine an 80 percent chance of being successful based on evidence that she has seen. She explained to The Times the process through which the vaccine will go through.

"First there is the need to manufacture the vaccine for clinical studies under tightly controlled conditions, certified and qualified — we need ethical approval and regulatory approval. Then the clinical trial can start with 500 people in phase 1. This is always in healthy adults aged about 18 to 55, and usually the primary read-out from a phase 1 study is safety," Gilbert said.

"Then we can do phase 2 looking at a wider age range, in this case we are going to increase the age range, 55 to 70 plus. We are looking at safety in the older age group, we expect to see weaker immune responses."

Gilbert stated that participants in the trial would not be intentionally infected with the virus by the scientists. Rather they will be asked to go on about their lives as normal and some will presumably become infected.

"If we wait too long, a large proportion of people will be immune before we vaccinate them. So it's vital we go fast before a high proportion become infected. But it also means we are going to need to do studies in different countries because the amount of virus transmission is affected by the lockdowns," said Gilbert, whose team is also planning to conduct studies worldwide.

"Total lockdowns do make it harder. But we don't want the herd immunity either. We want them to be susceptible and exposed for the trials purely to test the efficacy. It's a question of timing, it's not easy to predict which continents or countries will be the best places to test."

In order for a vaccine to be rolled out by September, millions of doses would have to be manufactured even before these studies are concluded. Gilbert wants her government and governments around the world to invest hundreds of millions to make this happen, which they have been reluctant to do in the past.

"Vaccines don't receive enough investment. They're the most cost-effective healthcare intervention, but they're overlooked. Many of us have been saying for years we need more vaccines against these outbreak pathogens and we need to be able to move faster when there's a new pandemic," Gilbert said.

As of Saturday morning, there have been over 1,700,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide along with more than 103,000 deaths and 388,910 recoveries.