Prioritise care workers after ‘exciting’ vaccine news, urges NHS chief


Health and social care workers must be prioritised for the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available, a body representing organisations across the NHS has said.

It was announced yesterday that a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and triggers an immune response.

Trials involving 1,077 people showed the injection provoked T-cells – a type of white blood cell – to attack cells infected with coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) within 14 days, and antibodies to neutralise the virus within 28 days.

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The results of the Phase I/II trial were published in the scientific journal, The Lancet.

Responding to the news, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This is exciting news although we still need larger trials to know whether the vaccine offers the right level of protection.

“When a vaccine does become available health and care staff must be a priority alongside other key workers and those who are vulnerable. Until then the advice is the same; to protect yourself and others, maintain social distance and wash your hands.”

He added: “Even if a vaccine were to become available soon, it will take time to immunise everyone. It is worth remembering that latest estimates suggest that only around one in 16 people in England have had the virus, and we still do not know how long any immunity they develop may last.”

A UK Phase I/II trial began in April testing the Oxford coronavirus vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

During the study, participants who received the vaccine had detectable neutralising antibodies, which have been suggested by researchers as important for protection, and these responses were strongest after a booster dose, with 100% of participants’ blood having neutralising activity against the coronavirus.

The next step in studying the vaccine is to confirm that it can effectively protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Professor Andrew Pollard, from the Oxford research group, said: “We saw the strongest immune response in the 10 participants who received two doses of the vaccine, indicating that this might be a good strategy for vaccination.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma commented: “Today’s results are extremely encouraging, taking us one step closer to finding a successful vaccine to protect millions in the UK and across the world.

“Backed by £84 million Government investment for the vaccine’s development and manufacture, the agility and speed with which the University of Oxford have been working is outstanding. I am very proud of what they have achieved so far.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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