In the worldwide race, the laboratory sprinting fastest is at Oxford University.
Scientists at the university’s Jenner Institute had a head start on a vaccine, having proved in previous trials that similar inoculations - including one last year against an earlier coronavirus - were harmless to humans. Therefore, unlike other teams around the world, the Jenner Institute does not have to start the test process with small clinical trials and can schedule tests of their new vaccine involving much larger numbers. Indeed, more than 6,000 people will be tested by the end of next month, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.
The Oxford scientists 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. And, in even better news, they have recently received positive indications that it might.
Scientists in Montana at the National Institute of Health inoculated six rhesus macaque monkeys with single doses of the Oxford vaccine last month. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the Covid-19 virus. Such exposure had consistently sickened other monkeys in the lab but, more than 28 days later, all six were healthy.
Immunity in monkeys is no guarantee that a vaccine will provide the same degree of protection for humans, but it's looking promising.