Leave.EU director of communications Andy Wigmore is among the first 500 “lab rats” to be tested by Oxford University’s multi million pound efforts to develop a vaccine to protect the population from the disease. The vaccine is being developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group. it is designed to stimulate the immune system using a common cold virus taken from chimps.
Known as ChADOx1 this vaccine, which progressed to human trials on April 23, the jab is designed to work by recreating parts of coronavirus inside the patient and forcing their immune system to learn to fight it.
Mr Wigmore, a former diplomat for Belize who represented the country in trap shooting in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, was one of the first trialled.
After he showed some positive reactions he was kept on for further trials.
Following a blood test on Tuesday last week, he said: “After the researchers last took a sample from me they were literally high fiving, they seemed really pleased which showed that they were making positive progress.
“I think the government is banking on this vaccine being a success so they can get people back to work again and end social distancing without there being a second spike.
“It seems to be the best chance they have in allowing the economy to recover so if it does not work then they could be in trouble.”
He added: “What I have seen from the first trials really gives me hope that they might come up with something.”
The importance that the Government is placing on developing a vaccine was highlighted in May with the announcement of £131 million to support upscaled production in Britain.
The money is being split between £93 million for a manufacturing and innovation centre in Oxfordshire and for £38 million for a deployment facility that will allow millions of vaccines to be rapidly produced and sent out to immunise the British population.
This follows £65.5 million investment into the vaccine trials at Oxford, together with £40 million funding for work on another vaccine candidate being trialled at Imperial College London.
The Imperial vaccine is designed to deliver genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the covid-19 distinctive spike surface protein. Imperial researchers hope this should provoke an immune response and create immunity to the virus.
There is an ongoing debate in the government over whether a vaccine should be compulsory once it is developed.
Last month, chief medical officer Chris Whitty suggested that a vaccine could be ready by next year which is a rapid development by medical research standards.
There are currently ten vaccines against covid-19 in trials around the world and 100 others in preclinical development.
Researchers at Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca have said they hope to have the first human trial data later this year.
However, experts warn the speed of development could carry its own risks.
It normally takes at least ten years to develop a vaccine, meaing the race to defeat Covid is treading new medical ground.
The Government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance has said the development of an effective vaccine cannot be guaranteed.