Coronavirus: The global race to find a Covid-19 vaccine

  • Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

There are few places that are able to handle the virus that causes Covid-19, but the Wiltshire-based Porton Down laboratory is one of them.

After developing vaccines against ebola and SARs, Public Health England's facility workers know exactly what they're doing - and are ready to face the new health challenge facing the world.

"For the ebola response, we worked extensively with international partners. There was an immense solidarity to find a vaccine," Public Health England's Professor Miles Carroll told ITV News.

"I would say for Covid-19, that has moved up a level and the commitment to find vaccines and therapeutics is incredible."

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Scientists are looking for a coronavirus vaccine - and quick. Credit: ITV News

The lab is testing two new vaccines against the virus, one from the US and another from the University of Oxford - and they are working as fast as they can.

Normally, developing a vaccine takes years, then there are years more of testing. First there is safety testing on animals, then in a small number of people.

For Covid-19, some of these are happening at the same time for speed.

Next, wider testing can start to see if the vaccine works. This is likely to be in healthcare workers. Only then is it rolled out for a full scale clinical trial, involving thousands, which typically takes years.

Credit: ITV News

With the global race on, a volunteer in Seattle became the first person in the world to be inoculated as part of a safety test.

In Paris, they are converting a tried and tested vaccine based on the measles vaccine to target Covid-19.

Meanwhile, in London they are pioneering a new vaccine approach and already testing in animals.

"Typically, getting to this stage might take you between three to five years, now we are able to short track that to a period of months which is a big advantage.

"But it's still the beginning of the process, it doesn't mean in a few months time we'll have a licence to put it on the market," Professor Robin Shattock, of Imperial College London, told ITV News.

Even though some tests are starting now, the best guess is that a vaccine won't be ready for use in the community until well into next year. But with at least 41 vaccines in development around the world, there's a very good chance at least one of them will work.