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Oxford researchers have developed a vaccine in order to begin protecting people against the coronavirus as soon as possible and clinical trials are now underway to establish whether the vaccine generates immunity in humans. In May, the University agreed a global licensing agreement with AstraZeneca, the UK-based pharmaceutical company, for the commercialisation and manufacturing of this potential vaccine.
On 24 June the Duke paid a visit to the Oxford Vaccine Centre facility at the Churchill Hospital where the vaccine has been developed and trials are now underway. During his visit, The Duke was briefed about the group’s work by Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, who developed the vaccine and Professor Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, who is leading the clinical trial team.
Professor Andrew Pollard said: 'It was a huge honour to host His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge at the Oxford Vaccine Centre today, and to describe our ongoing work to develop and trial an effective vaccine against the global threat that is coronavirus. We were delighted at the time he took to thank the members of the public who volunteered to take part in this important research.
'His words of praise to not only the staff he met but all those contributing to this important work has given our teams, who have been working very hard at unprecedented urgency for several months, a real boost, as we continue to tackle this current and pressing challenge.'
His Royal Highness was shown around the manufacturing laboratory where the vaccine has been produced and was given a tour of the laboratory where samples from the clinical trial are being examined by researchers. The trials began on 23 April, with ten thousand people across the UK in the process of being vaccinated in the latest study to assess the potential success of the treatment. This week, trials have begun in Brazil and South Africa.
During his time at the facility, The Duke met individuals who are part of the trial and spoke to them about their experience of the process. He also heard from staff who have been coordinating the trial across nineteen sites in the UK.
The UK Government has provided £84 million for the University to develop and manufacture its coronavirus vaccine. The University’s partnership with AstraZeneca means the vaccine will be available globally on a non-profit basis during the pandemic period, including to low and middle income countries.
The Duke also spoke via video call to representatives from AstraZeneca and the University as well as from CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. He heard how the AstraZeneca-Oxford partnership has placed British science and innovation at the heart of the global response to the pandemic.
An agreement between the University, AstraZeneca and the UK Government means the UK will have immediate access to the vaccine, should it be successful. However, crucially it will also be made available in a broad and equitable way, including to low and middle income countries. The Duke heard how committed all partners are to ensure global, equitable access for all who need a vaccine as a crucial way to end the pandemic and support the global economic recovery.