On Saturday at the daily Downing Street press briefing the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, announced that there were 2,445 new cases. However, he highlighted that although there has been an increase of new cases over the last few days, there is a continuing downward trend.
Professor Van-Tam stated at the briefing: “I have noticed some increase in the last few days but I want to be clear that is a trend that we have seen before in these data and what is rather more important is that you look at the seven-day rolling average.
“The blue line which continues to show a clear downward trend and that is important.”
The Oxford coronavirus vaccine reportedly only has a 50 per cent chance of being successful because of the fast decline of infections.
Due to this rapid falling of cases, there may not be enough patients to trial the vaccine.
A race against time to conduct human trials has emerged due to the decline of Covid-19 infections
Due to the rapid falling of cases there may not be enough patients to trial the vaccine
Dr Andrew Ustianowski is a National Institute for Health Research Lead for Infectious Diseases, NHS consultant and Principal Clinical Research Lead in North Manchester General Hospital.
Speaking to Express.co.uk he explained why not having enough patients with Covid-19 can be a problem when trialling a new coronavirus vaccine.
He said: “It is a problem for the ‘later phase’ vaccine studies.”
Dr Ustianowski described how new therapies, including vaccines, have to undergo studies in phases.
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The Oxford coronavirus vaccine reportedly only has a 50 per cent chance of being successful
The first phase study in people looks mainly for side effects and whether the vaccine does what it is supposed to, such as making the body produce antibodies.
The next phase, Dr Ustianowski explains, is similar in that it looks for side effects but when given to a larger set of people.
In vaccines studies, the people tested in this stage tend to be healthy volunteers therefore the amount of people who are infected with Covid-19 would not affect this phase.
However, the third phase of studying a new vaccine involves a much larger amount of volunteers, often in the thousands, and assesses the efficacy of it preventing people with getting the coronavirus infection or developing a severe reaction to Covid-19.
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New therapies, including vaccines, have to undergo studies in phases
In the later stage the number of people infected with Covid-19 in the population is important
In this later stage the number of people infected with Covid-19 in the population is important.
Dr Ustianowski explains that this is because “it is very difficult to determine a difference between those that get the vaccine and those that don’t if the rates are very low”.
Therefore, a population would need large numbers of cases for long periods for a fully successful vaccine trail.
Dr Ustianowski also highlights how generally most studies, especially those entering phase three, will be wanting volunteers from the “target population”.
For Covid-19, this population are the more elderly and those with underlining conditions including heart disease and diabetes.
During the earlier stages of a vaccine trial generally younger and healthier volunteers are needed.
When asked whether the coronavirus vaccines may have to be tested elsewhere in places where there are more infections, Dr Ustianowski stated that “this may be the case”.
During the earlier stages of a vaccine trial generally younger and healthier volunteers are needed
He explained how phase three results will depend on the rates of infection, “and so it is logical – as the study will finish and report quicker, be easier and cheaper potentially – to go to places with higher infection rates”.
However, he also highlighted how it is difficult to predict where the higher infection rates will be in the future.
To volunteer for a study, Dr Ustianowski said: “[People] should listen out for adverts on the radio or in the papers or potentially check if their GP or other doctors are aware of such local studies.”