No certainty that UK will have coronavirus vaccine in 18 months, chief scientific adviser warns

At the weekend, experts from the World Health Organisaion said there was no evidence so far to show that antibody tests could prove a person had developed immunity to coronavirus. 

Speaking in Geneva, Dr Maria van Kerkhove said: “There are a lot of countries that are suggesting using rapid diagnostic serological tests to be able to capture what they think will be a measure of immunity. 

“Right now, we have no evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from re-infection. These antibody tests will be able to measure that level of seroprevalence – that level of antibodies – but that does not mean that somebody with antibodies is immune.”

Scientists from Oxford University are about to begin human trials of a vaccine and say they are 80 per cent sure of success. 

However, Professor Sarah Gilbert, leading Britain’s vaccine race, suggested it may not be available to Britons first.

Prof Gilbert, whose team is receiving UK Government funding, said on Sunday that the vaccine is focused on providing protection against the virus “as widely as possible across the world”.

Last week, an investigation found that Britain had spent £16 million ordering flawed Covid-19 home testing kits from China. 

Health officials are scrambling to get a refund on at least some of that sum, but the New York Times reported that the order for two million antibody tests was offered on a “take it or leave it deal” before the kits were found not to work.

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