Government announces taskforce in race for coronavirus vaccine

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

The hunt for a coronavirus vaccine has been given a boost by the launch of a government taskforce announced by Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

But the minister admitted at the government's daily coronavirus update on Friday, "we cannot put a date on when we will get a vaccine".

The announcement comes as a further 847 virus-related deaths were reported on Friday, bringing the UK coronavirus death toll to 14,576.

Making the announcement at Friday's coronavirus press conference, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the taskforce hoped to make a vaccine available to the public "as quickly as possible".

Mr Sharma said "the best of British scientific endeavor" was needed to try and find a vaccine to "defeat this virus".

Led by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, and deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan van Tam, the taskforce will support efforts to rapidly develop a vaccine.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) has so far identified 115 Covid-19 vaccines at varying stages of development. Five of these candidates have moved to clinical development.

The hunt for a vaccine has been a worldwide effort since the outbreak began. Credit: PA

Government funding from a £14 million investment will go to 21 new research projects looking at combating coronavirus.

It follows the government's earlier £250 million pledge to develop a vaccine.

As well as providing industry and research institutions with the resources and support, the new taskforce will review regulations to allow quick and safe Covid-19 vaccine trials.

The initiative will also scale up manufacturing, so that when a vaccine becomes available, it can be produced quickly and in mass quantities.

The new taskforce will include representatives from the government, academia and industry as well as government life sciences champion Sir John Bell, AstraZeneca, and the Wellcome Trust.

Scientists at the University of Oxford said a vaccine could be available for use by the general public by September.

Announcing the taskforce, Mr Sharma added: "UK scientists are working as fast as they can to find a vaccine that fights coronavirus, saving and protecting people's lives.

"We stand firmly behind them in their efforts.The vaccine taskforce is key to co-ordinating efforts to rapidly accelerate the development and manufacture of a potential new vaccine, so we can make sure it is widely available to patients as soon as possible."

The group will focus on five strands of activity including supporting the discovery of potential coronavirus vaccines and preparing the UK for clinical vaccine testing and manufacturing.

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