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Coronavirus: When will UK have a vaccine and what treatments exist?

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As the UK faces further coronavirus restrictions amid a second wave of infections, the race to find a Covid-19 vaccine continues to gather pace.

The process typically takes between 10 and 15 years, but vaccine production has been accelerated by governments and leading pharmaceutical companies, who are hoping to find a vaccine— and a way out of the coronavirus pandemic — by the end of the year.

In the face of winter, when the virus is expected to flourish, many are wondering when a virus will be made widely available – and what treatments already exist for those who do become ill.

When will the UK have a coronavirus vaccine?

Small quantities of a coronavirus vaccine may potentially be made available to certain groups by the end of the year, Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific advisor, said in a briefing on Monday – but the mass rollout won’t be until 2021.

Health and care workers, older people and those in care homes will be among those offered the vaccine first.

He said there is “good progress being made” on developing a vaccine, adding: “Many vaccines now have shown they generate an immune response of a type that ought to be protective.

“We don’t yet know they will work but there is increasing evidence that is pointing in the right direction and it is possible that some vaccine could be available before the end of the year in small amounts for certain groups.”

Sir Vallance said it is more likely the vaccine will become available in 2021.

“Much more likely that we’ll see vaccines becoming available over the first half of next year, again not certain but pointed in the right direction, which then of course gives the possibility of a different approach to this virus.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said on Monday: “Hopefully in the first few months [of 2021] – there’s still a chance of it coming on stream before Christmas, but we’ve then got to roll it out and the first people who will get it are the people who are most vulnerable – people in care homes, older people.”

The UK has pre-ordered six different vaccines, including the Oxford University/AstraZeneca candidate which  recently restarted clinical trials in the UK after it was forced to pause when a volunteer became ill.

What treatments exist?

Most people will not receive a coronavirus vaccine before the winter is through, but treatments of the disease have improved since the spring.

Dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory drug that has been hailed as a ‘major breakthrough’ in the fight against the virus.

The steroid has been shown to reduce deaths among those seriously ill with Covid-19 – it only works on the most unwell.

It works by lowering the body’s immune response.

Coronavirus causes inflammation as the body tries to fight the infection off – but sometimes this reaction can prove fatal, as the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the body’s own cells. Dexamethasone helps prevent this reaction.One in three deaths could be prevented among patients on ventilators, the scientists behind the trials said in June.

One in three deaths could be prevented among patients on ventilators, the scientists behind the trials said in June. It could prevent one death in five among patients on oxygen.

Remdesivir is the other UK-approved treatment for Covid-19. It is an experimental antiviral drug that has been shown to reduce patients’ recovery times by about four days. However, it has not been proven to reduce mortality.

The drug works by blocking the virus from from duplicating itself and, therefore, overloading the host’s immune system.

Remdesivir was approved in May, but will be reserved for the most sick patients.

While Dexamethasone is a low-cost, and widely available, steroid that has been around since the 1960s, Remdesivir is a newer drug in limited supply.

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