Latest on global search for coronavirus vaccine: Oxford vaccine protects monkeys from COVID

Latest on global search for coronavirus vaccine: Oxford vaccine protects monkeys from COVID

An all-out global race to develop a safe vaccine against coronavirus is underway. The stakes couldn't be higher: an effective vaccine or treatment against the virus that causes COVID-19 is necessary to fully restart economies and resume civic life.

As the pace accelerates, USA TODAY is rounding up some of the week's most notable vaccine developments. Here's what we know about Oxford University's most promising vaccine candidate, which many consider to be ahead in the race, international funding for a Maryland vaccine possibility and how people opposed to vaccines could keep COVID-19 circulating.

Oxford vaccine protects monkeys

A single dose of a vaccine being developed by Oxford University in England caused rhesus macaque monkeys to develop antibodies to coronavirus within 28 days.

The vaccine, called ChAdOx1, also appears to have prevented pneumonia and lung inflammatory disease when the animals were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Oxford vaccine is based on a vaccine platform researchers at the university’s Jenner Institute adapted for SARS-CoV-2.

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The tests on the macaques were conducted at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana.

The infected monkeys were compared with three control monkeys that did not receive the vaccine. Two out of three control monkeys developed pneumonia after being exposed to the virus.

The findings were in a preprint paper posted Thursday on the preprint server bioRxiv. Preprints are studies that have not undergone the normal peer-review process required for publication in medical or scientific journals. However, during the coronavirus emergency many researchers are releasing their results as soon as they are available.

Britain: Vaccine could never come

Despite the Oxford news, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledges it’s possible a vaccine for COVID-19 may never come.

The statement came as the United Kingdom’s government published a detailed 50-page three-stage COVID-19 recovery plan that launched on Wednesday with a partial relaxation of the nation’s lockdown restrictions.

Johnson said the only feasible long-term solution was in a vaccine or a treatment, but while the nation hoped for a breakthrough, “hope is not a plan.”

“A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away. Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine. So our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome,” he said.

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International group funds Maryland vaccine effort

Maryland-based vaccine company Novavax will receive up to $388 million from the International Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) to continue development and manufacturing of NVX-CoV2373, Novavax' COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

The company said the possible vaccine has shown success in animal models. It hopes to begin Phase 1 human clinical trials in May in Australia.

CEPI, based in Norway, is a partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organizations. It was launched in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics and to insure access to those vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. It has so far begun nine partnerships to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.

WHO vaccine candidate tracker

The World Health Organization’s list of vaccine candidates for COVID-19 stayed steady at eight possible products in early-stage human trials. Those include three from China, two from the United States, one from the United Kingdom and one from Europe.

The list also includes possible vaccines that are in pre-clinical evaluation, meaning they’re still being tested in the lab either in cell cultures or in animals. This week the number increased by eight, going up from 102 possible candidates on May 11 to 110 on May 15.

When the list was first published, on April 20, it contained five candidates in early human trials and 71 still in the lab.

Anti-vaxers could vex herd immunity

Most Americans are eager for a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

But among the minority who distrust vaccine safety, many say they would not. A poll by Yahoo News/YouGov found that 19% of Americans said they wouldn’t get immunized against SARS-CoV-2. Another 26% said they weren’t sure.

A poll conducted by Morning Consult found that 64% of Americans said they would get vaccinated while 14% wouldn’t. The rest were undecided.

This could block efforts to lower the spread of the disease in the country. Experts believe as much as 70% of the population would need to be either immunized or have recovered from a case to stop the spread of the disease.

The United States is nowhere near so-called herd immunity, where enough people in the population are immune that the virus can no longer spread freely. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, 200 million Americans would need to be protected for that to be the case.

To submit a development for the weekly roundup, or share other vaccine news, please email Elizabeth Weise at


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