OXFORD, ENGLAND - A Covid-19 vaccine could still be ready by the end of the year if scientists can get 50,000 people in trials in the next six weeks, experts have said. Oxford University published the first human trial results yesterday, showing that its vaccine against coronavirus is safe and produces an immune response. Initially, it had been hoped that vaccinations might be ready by September. But the number of Covid-19 cases plummeted in Britain after lockdown, meaning the chance of getting infected dropped substantially and making it difficult to test a vaccine.

The vaccine stimulated “robust immune responses” in a phase-one trial. However, they cautioned that they are yet to determine whether the responses were sufficient to protect against Covid-19. Meanwhile, the UK government has signed deals for 90 million doses of promising vaccines being developed elsewhere.

Oxford University's coronavirus vaccine is safe and produces an immune response, the first human results published today show. Initial trials on 1,077 British adults found the jab induced strong antibody and T-cell responses, which may improve further after a booster. There was found to be no serious adverse events and minor side effects could be controlled by paracetamol.

Further testing is needed to confirm if the vaccine effectively protects against infection. Initial results came as the Government announced deals with pharmaceutical firms to produce 90 million doses of two other potential vaccines - in addition to the 100 million doses being developed by Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca.