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Oxford says Covid-19 vaccine could be ready by September

Jack Burton

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Oxford says Covid-19 vaccine could be ready by September | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Dr. Adrian Hill and his team at Oxford's Jenner Institute - CNN
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There’s a worldwide race to develop a vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus, and Oxford University in the UK already claim to have a massive head start.

Research teams generally have to start with small clinical trials of a few hundred volunteers to demonstrate safety. But scientists at the Oxford’s Jenner Institute have a jump start on a vaccine, having proved in previous trials that certain inoculations, including one last year against an earlier coronavirus, are harmless to humans.

This has allowed them to leap ahead and schedule tests of their new coronavirus vaccine on more than 6,000 people by the end of May, hoping to show not only that it’s safe, but also that it works.

The Oxford team now say that with an emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses of their vaccine could be available by September, at least several months ahead of any of the other announced efforts… if it proves to be effective.

Now, they’ve got promising news suggesting it might. Scientists at the US National Institutes of Health last month inoculated six rhesus monkeys with single doses of the Oxford vaccine. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the virus that is causing the pandemic: exposure that has consistently sickened other monkeys in the lab. But more than 28 days later, all six remained healthy.

“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” a spokeman said, noting that scientists are still analysing the results. He said he expects to share it with other scientists next week and then submit it to a peer-reviewed journal.

But immunity in monkeys is no guarantee that a vaccine will provide the same degree of protection for humans. A Chinese company that recently started a clinical trial with 144 participants, SinoVac, has also said that its vaccine is effective in rhesus macaques. But with dozens of efforts now underway to find a vaccine, the monkey results are the latest indication that Oxford’s accelerated venture is emerging as the leader.

Emilio Emini, a director of the vaccine program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is providing financial support to many competing efforts, says the Oxford program is “a very, very fast clinical program.”

Which potential vaccine will emerge as the most successful is impossible to know until clinical trial data becomes available.

More than one vaccine would be needed in any case. Some may work more effectively than others in groups like children or older people, or at different costs and dosages. Having more than one variety of vaccine in production will also help avoid bottlenecks in manufacturing, according to Emini.

But as the first to reach such scale, the Oxford trial, even if it fails, will provide lessons about the nature of this coronavirus and about the immune system’s responses that can inform governments, donors, drug companies and others hunting for a vaccine.

“This big UK study is actually going to translate to learning a lot about some of the others as well.”

All of the others will face the same challenges, including obtaining millions of dollars in funding, persuading regulators to approve human tests, demonstrating a vaccine’s safety and after all of that, proving its effectiveness in protecting people from the coronavirus.

Paradoxically, the growing success of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, may present yet another hurdle.

Professor Adrian Hill, the Jenner Institute’s director and one of five researchers involved in the effort, says that they are the only people in the country who want the number of new infections to stay up for another few weeks, so we can test our vaccine.”

Ethics rules, in general, forbid infecting human test participants with a serious disease. That means the only way to prove that a vaccine works is to inoculate people in a place where the virus is spreading naturally around them.

If social distancing measures or other factors continue to slow the rate of new infections in Britain, he said, the trial might not be able to show that the vaccine makes a difference: Participants who received a placebo might not be infected any more frequently than those who have been given the vaccine. The scientists would have to try again elsewhere, a dilemma that every other vaccine effort will face as well.

SOURCE: New York Times

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

40 arrested in a suspected gambling house in Nonthaburi

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40 arrested in a suspected gambling house in Nonthaburi | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Last night, police raided a house in Nonthaburi and arrested 40 people for allegedly gambling.

According to the deputy chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, 33 are Thais and 7 are migrant workers of the casino. The officials also confiscated decks of cards of the Dragon-Tiger game, plastic chips and some cash as evidence.

During the raid, the migrant workers allegedly revealed that the gambling operations at the home had only been going on for 2 days and that the owner planned to move it to other locations.

Police have been cracking down on gambling after the Covid-19 outbreak at a Rayong gambling den in line with the PM’s order made last week to shut down the illegal venues and tracking down “influential figures.”

SOURCE: National Thailand

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Former finance minister proposes legalisation of gambling

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Former finance minister proposes legalisation of gambling | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Tabloid

With Covid-19 cases linked to some illegal gambling dens, causing a headache for health officials trying to track down elusive gamblers to contain the virus, the former Finance Minister floated the idea to legalise gambling.

The former Finance Minister and current leader of the Kla Party, Korn Chaitkavanich, claims legalising gambling will help contain the spread of Covid-19. He also hinted that it will gain more tax revenue. If it’s legalised, gamblers will spend their money in legal casinos that pay taxes, drawing in more money the government can use for public improvements, he says.

The Royal Thai Police spokesperson insists police are pursuing legal action against owners of the illegal gambling dens. Interior Minister Anuphong Paojinda has also told provincial governors to suppress illegal gambling dens and take responsibility if more gambling dens are found.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Travelling in Thailand, Covid and Mor Chana | VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Travelling in Thailand, Covid and Mor Chana | VIDEO | The Thaiger

For people travelling around Thailand at the moment there is still quite a lot of confusion and misinformation about where you can travel to and additional restrictions on travel. We’ll continue to publish any updates to this information at thethaiger.com

For people travelling out of Red Zones… that includes Bangkok…. to other parts of the country that are lower-risk zones – organge, yellow and green – there are a number of precautions in place.

How these precautions are applied in practice is sometimes up to the local governors and officials and also sometime up to you with advisories about your behaviour when you arrive at your destinations

In Phuket, for example, if you want to travel from Bangkok to the island, officially there are restrictions on your travel, documented in a 3 page announcement last weekend. There was talk of a 14 day self quarantine being in place.

This week the Tourism Authority of Thailand has announced that travellers will not have to do a 14 day quarantine if they travel from Bangkok, except from four high risk areas in the capital

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