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Oxford scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine say the chances of success are now 50%.
They say that's because the number of people with the virus in the UK is falling too quickly.
"At the moment, there's a 50% chance that we get no result at all," scientist Adam Hill said this weekend.
His colleague Sir John Bell said vaccine scientists might have to "chase" COVID-19 around Britain.
Oxford scientists have teamed up drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to develop an experimental vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
Scientists involved in one of the world's leading studies into finding a vaccine for the coronavirus say there is currently only a 50% chance of success because the number of people in Britain with the virus is falling too quickly.
The Oxford University mission to find a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is in "a race against the virus disappearing, and against time," Adam Hill, director at Oxford University's Jenner Institute, said this weekend.
Hill told The Telegraph newspaper that the number of people in the UK with the virus was falling at a rate that meant it might not be possible to effectively test the experimental vaccine known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
"At the moment, there's a 50% chance that we get no result at all," he said.
Hill's colleague Sir John Bell, an Oxford University regius professor of medicine, made the same observation in a weekend interview with The Times of London newspaper.
"You wouldn't start [trials] in London now for sure," Bell told the newspaper. Cases of the coronavirus in England's capital are currently falling faster than anywhere else in the country.
The trial is done by giving the vaccine to a group of participants who then mix with the population to see if they are protected from catching the virus. However, scientists are concerned that they will be unable to tell whether the vaccine has successfully protected participants if the rate of infection in the UK is too low.
Bell said that scientists might have to "chase" the virus around the nation for the vaccine trials to be successful.
"The latest figures show 634 confirmed cases in the capital in the past fortnight," Bell told the newspaper.
"In contrast, there was an increase of 163 on Friday alone in the northwest of England, taking the total in the region to 24,295 confirmed cases.
"The question is: can you chase the disease around the UK? Then there's the question about whether you chase it internationally."
Scientists at Oxford are working with global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc to produce the vaccine. It's one of several studies around the world with the aim of developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.
The Oxford Vaccine Group says it hopes to complete human trials on the hAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine in September.
The first two humans were injected with the vaccine at the end of last month. About 1,100 people in the UK are expected to take part in the trial, which is funded by Boris Johnson's UK government.
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