AstraZeneca (AZN.L) chief executive Pascal Soriot believes the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University can succeed.
The drug giant has teamed up with Oxford University to provide millions of doses should the clinical trials work.
Soriot told the Andrew Marr show today: “We are confident the vaccine will work. Question is whether it will completely clear the virus or stop patients from being sick. But being protected from being sick would already be a big plus.”
Nevertheless he admitted that AstraZeneca and Oxford University are in a race against time as the coronavirus seems to be fading rapidly in the UK.
Without COVID-19 spreading in the community, volunteers will not catch the disease, leaving scientists unable to prove that their vaccine makes any difference.
He added: “I don’t think there will be too many vaccines because when the disease disappears it will be hard to demonstrate efficacy.”
His comments come as the University of Oxford told The Telegraph that the COVID-19 vaccine trial only has a 50% chance of success.
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Adrian Hill, director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, said that an upcoming trial, involving 10,000 volunteers threatened to return “no result” due to low transmission of COVID-19 in the community.
He told the Telegraph: “It’s a race against the virus disappearing, and against time. At the moment, there’s a 50% chance that we get no result at all.
“We’re in the bizarre position of wanting Covid to stay, at least for a little while. But cases are declining.”
The experimental vaccine is one of the front-runners in the global race to provide protection against the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hill’s team began early-stage human trials of the vaccine in April, making it one of only a handful to have reached that milestone.
Early next month, Oxford will release the crucial results of a first trial of more than 1,000 UK volunteers conducted in April, when the disease was at its peak.
Other drugmakers including Pfizer (PFE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Sanofi (SNY) are in various stages of vaccine development.