top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

French expert: UK vaccine ‘hopeful’ but unlikely before 2021

A medical research expert in France has said that despite the recently-announced successes of British and Chinese Covid-19 vaccination trials, a safe vaccine is still unlikely to be available before at least 2021.

Dr Bruno Hoen is director of medical research at prestigious Paris centre l’Institut Pasteur.

He spoke to news service FranceInfo to comment on the announcement in medical journal The Lancet yesterday (Monday July 20) that a vaccine trial at the University of Oxford in the UK (with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca) had “triggered an immune response”.

This means that the vaccine - called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 or AZD1222 - appears to be safe and produces few serious side effects, as well as causing the body to make antibodies and T-cells (a type of white blood cell) that could fight the virus.

Another trial in China, supported by CanSino Biologics, has also suggested similar results. These have been described as “promising” and “hopeful”.

Yet, the trials are continuing, and current success does not mean that the vaccine will definitely be safe or effective enough for general use any time soon, Dr Hoen has said.

Dr Hoen explained: “These are two trials in what we call ‘Phase 2’, meaning that they are evaluating the safety and immune response of two vaccinations that are relatively comparable in construction, as they are two viral vaccinations.

“These two trials show that on the one hand, the vaccinations are well tolerated [by the body]. There are no serious side effects. And...that there is an immune response. But that does not mean, for the moment, that the vaccinations will offer protection.

“We are waiting for these trials to begin ‘Phase 3’, which will allow us to answer this question.”


‘Promising results’ but ‘more work to do’

As the results were announced yesterday, Professor Andrew Pollard, from the Oxford research group, told the BBC: "We're really pleased with the results published today as we're seeing both neutralising antibodies and T-cells.

"They're extremely promising and we believe the type of response that may be associated with protection. But the key question everyone wants to know is: does the vaccine work? does it offer protection?... and we're in a waiting game."

Dr Sarah Gilbert, vaccination researcher at Oxford University, said: “There is still a lot of work to do before we can confirm if our vaccine will help to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, but these early results are promising.”

Dr Hoen added: “There are several arguments to suggest that there is a good chance that they will offer protection because the antibodies identified in vaccinated patients are such that - for a lot of them - have the capacity to neutralise the virus. Which is hopeful.”

Trials are set to begin in “areas where the virus is spreading”, he said.

Commenting on the “vaccination race” currently taking place between several laboratories, Dr Hoen continued: “The planned model for the development of making these vaccinations available - once we have one, and I hope, several effective ones - will be funded internationally.

Read more: French pharma group's Covid vaccine row explained

“We will have to choose between the effective vaccinations - which will be easier to produce in a large quantity, at a low cost.”

But Dr Hoen said that this would “not be in 2020, and if [we manage it] in 2021, that will be a major feat.”

Related stories

Covid vaccine: still many doubts says leading French doctor

France signs plan to deliver Covid vaccine by end of 2020

Covid-19 France: patients still immune a month later

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Income Tax in France 2023 (for 2022 income)*
Featured Help Guide
- Primarily aimed at Britons, covers pensions, rent, ISAs, shares, savings and interest - but also contains significant general information pertinent to readers of other nationalities - Overview of online declarations + step-by-step guide to the French printed forms - Includes updates given automatically after this year's site opened
Get news, views and information from France