Story at a glance
- The rhesus macaques remained healthy after 28 days.
- Researchers note, however, just because the vaccine appears to work on a macaque does not mean it will work on humans.
- The vaccine is set to undergo human trials.
Six monkeys that were given an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by researchers from the University of Oxford have not contracted the virus despite heavy exposure, a promising sign for a potential vaccine that can be used for humans, The New York Times reported Monday.
The rhesus macaques were administered a vaccine produced by the Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group as part of an experiment carried out in late March by government researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana, the Times reports.
The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of COVID-19, exposure that had previously sickened other monkeys. After 28 days, the monkeys remained healthy.
“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” Vincent Munster, the head of the Virus Ecology Unit at the laboratory, told the Times.
Human trials of the vaccine, named ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, are underway, with tests scheduled for more than 6,000 people by the end of next month. Researchers are optimistic that if the trial proves safe and effective and regulators give emergency approval, the first few million doses could be available by September.
But researchers note, however, immunity in monkeys is no guarantee the vaccine will work on humans.
Chinese-based SinoVac is also working on a vaccine that has shown promise from tests on rhesus macaques, and the company has recently started a clinical trial with 144 patients.
As many as 80 coronavirus vaccines are in development, and public health officials have said a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months before it becomes widely available.
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