Clinical trial results from an experimental coronavirus vaccine AstraZeneca (AZN -3.21%) licensed from Oxford University might not be ready this September as hoped. In an interview with The Telegraph, the director of Oxford's Jenner Institute, Professor Adrian Hill, said the chances we'll see meaningful trial results by September are increasingly slim due to successful COVID-19 containment efforts.
Vaccine math is hard
In April, Prof. Hill said a million doses could be ready by September if results from ongoing efficacy tests prove ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is safe and effective. Thanks to successful containment efforts, Hill thinks the number of new infections in the U.K. will be too few to draw any meaningful conclusions at such an early date. Out of around 10,000 people expected to enroll in the trial, the researcher expects less than 50 will catch the virus.
While AstraZeneca can easily solve this problem by expanding the study, we still need to wait and see if new participants injected with the vaccine come down with COVID-19 less often than those randomized to receive a placebo. It's not unusual to see COVID-19 infections put healthy, athletic people in the hospital or worse. Despite popular suggestions, willingly exposing trial participants to SARS-CoV-2 to speed up the vaccine development process is unethical and illegal in at least a hundred different ways.
Recently, AstraZeneca signed an agreement to provide up to 300 million doses of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 to the U.S. if it works as intended. The company could receive up to $1.2 billion to assist with the vaccine candidate's development, including a clinical trial expected to enroll 30,000 participants.