Sunday 17 May 2020

Day 62 of self-isolation - the Waitrose van, and a vaccine

The Waitrose van, and a vaccine

The Waitrose van came again today. From now on, that will be weekly. We can't really have it less often, because of fresh fruit and vegetables.

As a nice bonus, we got a Radio Times, although we've been watching very little TV.

I also ordered ten half-litre bottles of olive oil soap. We're getting through soap very quickly, because of the frequent hand washing.

The Oxford University vaccine trials are now well under way, with the possibility of some preliminary results by mid June. The first tests are on healthy young adult volunteers, and will be followed by tests on older age groups.

Professor Pollard and his team said they expected to produce a million doses of their vaccine "ChAdOx1 nCoV-19" as early as September, and if all goes well, there could be 30 million doses by October. That would be enough to vaccinate everyone in the UK who wants to be vaccinated and has not already become immune to Covid-19 by infection.

The Oxford University vaccine uses an interesting technology, which they've been working on since last year. It isn't simply a vaccine for one virus, it's a platform that makes it possible to develop vaccines for new viruses much more rapidly. In computer terms, they have a search engine, and just need to tell that engine the specifics of a virus, to adapt it to search for that virus and stimulate the antibody system. And if a new virus comes along (or a variant of Covid-19), they can just change the search terms to adapt their engine for the new virus. What a good idea! That's exactly how the best computer antivirus programs work. I came up with that idea 32 years ago.

Obviously, going into production before the test results are completed, is a large financial risk (which will be carried by the UK government), but it's a risk worth taking. On the downside, we would have to incinerate 30 million inoculations, but on the upside (if the trials are successful), we'll have the vaccine months earlier, and will be able to come out of lock down completely once the vaccination program is completed.

A few months later, there could be 100 million doses, which would be shared amongst our European friends. But why not the USA? If only. Sadly, the USA has withdrawn from the WHO, under whose auspices this vaccine (and several others) are being developed.

Perhaps this would persuade the USA to rejoin the WHO? Maybe Trump was only being sarcastic when he said he was pulling out prematurely.

 By that time, the Trump initiative (code name "Warp Speed", although it isn't clear to me why this code name will help keep it secret, but perhaps the intention is that the name will make it happen faster)  will, hopefully, have begun to show results. If not, we'll be in a position to donate millions of doses to the USA soon after that. Obviously all the anti-vaxxers in America will decline, but that just means more for the rest of America.

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