The Mers vaccine has been successful in trials, and the virus shares a similar ‘spike protein’ with Covid-19, which is critical to infection, so scientists were hopeful the process would also work for Covid-19.
Oxford University already has its own vaccine manufacturing facility, so was able to quickly produce a drug ready for initial trials. By February 17th, the first successful tests were carried out, allowing the team to move to primates by March.
By mid-April, testing in monkeys showed the vaccine was not only safe but offered some protection. Six monkeys had been vaccinated and exposed to a huge load of the virus 28 days later. None of the animals developed serious disease.
At the end of April, the Oxford team had started their human trial on more than 1,100 people.
Originally it was hoped that results would be available in May, but the trial was hindered when Covid-19 cases plummeted after lockdown. In early June, the team was forced to begin trials of the vaccine in Brazil and South Africa, where cases were rising quickly.
The government has moved quickly to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry is ready to produce millions of doses, if a vaccine is proved safe and effective.
On March 23, the day Boris Johnson announced lockdown, the government announced a grant of £2.2 million to support the Oxford team, and a month later AstraZeneca came on board, agreeing to be responsible for global distribution and manufacturing.