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Oxford scientists prepare to expand trials of potential COVID-19 vaccine

London, April 28 (IANS) Even as researchers at Oxford University have begun testing their potential vaccine against COVID-19 on a small group of human volunteers, they hope to expand the tests soon after getting positive results from the initial trial.

“Oxford University initiated trials of the COVID-19 vaccine on 23rd April 2020 and plans to vaccinate 800 volunteers in the UK over the next month,” the Oxford Vaccine Group said.

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“If the trial is successful in the UK, then the Oxford team will approach scientists in the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and will approach the Government of Kenya for permission to evaluate in Kenya,” it added in an update.

A vaccine candidate for COVID-19 was identified by researchers from the Oxford Vaccine Group and Oxford's Jenner Institute.

The potential upcoming vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is based on an adenovirus vaccine vector and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

By vaccinating with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the scientists hope to make the body recognise and develop an immune response to the Spike protein that will help stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering human cells and therefore prevent infection.

According to a report in the New York Times on Monday, the scientists plan to test the vaccine in trials involving more than 6,000 people by the end of May.

And if the trials show positive results, the first few million doses of the vaccine may be available by September, several months ahead of any of the other efforts announced so far, said the report.

In experiments conducted at the US National Institutes of Health's Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana last month, single doses of the Oxford vaccine proved effective in protecting rhesus macaque monkeys against the virus which is responsible for the pandemic.

This has raised hope that the vaccine might work to protect humans as well.

However, it is too early to say which potential vaccine will prove to be the most successful in protecting people against COVID-19 as it may take some time for clinical trial data to become available.

More than 70 research efforts are on currently to develop a vaccine against COVID-19.

–IANS

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