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Human trials for UK CV vaccine to start on Thursday

21 April 2020

By Tim Le Couilliard, Senior Executive

Speaking at the Downing Street daily briefing today was Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary reiterating that the government’s aim is to keep care capacity ahead of demand. He promised that should someone need a critical care bed, they will “always get that care”. Citing positive latest figures, Hancock said that there is a current record high of 2,963 surplus critical care beds across the NHS. At no point in the outbreak, so far, has anyone who would have benefited from a critical care bed been denied it for a lack of staff, beds or equipment. This, Hancock said, shows that the social distancing measures are working.

Hancock did say, however, that there is much further to go. On testing, 535,342 tests have now been carried out in the UK (not including NI), of which 129,044 have returned positive. 17,681 people are now in hospital with symptoms whilst 17,388 have sadly died in hospital. He said, therefore, the country must not “throw away the progress we have made so far” and so the social distancing measures will not be eased until the five-part government test has been met.

Moving on to PPE delivery, which Hancock stated was an operation of “unprecedented scale and complexity”, 24/7 and ”one of the largest cross-government operations he has ever seen”. Since the start of the virus over a billion items of PPE have been delivered. On top of the work by the FCO and DIT on sourcing supplies from outside of the UK, Hancock thanked 8,331 offers of PPE support from private companies, all of whom, Hancock said, are now being engaged with. There are 159 potential UK manufacturers now working with the government to provide PPE in an effort led by Lord Deighton (formerly known for his role in delivering the 2012 Olympics).

Hancock moved on to vaccines, which he stated is the best way to defeat coronavirus. As such, the government is “throwing everything we have got at developing a vaccine.” He announced that the UK is contributing more money than any other country into the global effort to provide a vaccine, and that two of the leading global vaccine efforts are being hosted in the UK, one at Oxford and one at Imperial, London.

Citing rapid progress, Hancock announced that the government is making £22.5m available to the Imperial project to support its phase 2 clinical trials. £20m is being provided to Oxford to fund their clinical trials. Positively, Hancock announced that the vaccine from the Oxford project is to be trailed in people from this Thursday with the support of regulators, noting that normally it would take “years” to reach this stage of development. The government is also investing in manufacturing capacity for when a vaccine is found.

The upside, as Hancock put it, of being the first country in the world to develop a vaccine, “is so huge”, that the government “is throwing everything at it”. In the meantime, he urged people to continue to abide by the government’s motto to “Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives”.