UK trials of a coronavirus vaccine on people will begin on Thursday, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.
The health secretary says government-funded research at the University of Oxford had been accelerated due to the global pandemic.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, he said: “I can announce that the vaccine from the Oxford project will be trialled in people from this Thursday.
“In normal times, reaching this stage would take years and I’m very proud of the work taken so far.
“At the same time, we will invest in manufacturing capability so that, if either of these vaccines safely work, we can make it available for the British people as soon as humanely possible.”
While the trials may start this week, it has previously been reported a vaccine will not be available before September.
Hancock said the process for finding a vaccine would take “trial and error” but he has told UK scientists leading the search he would “back them to the hilt and give them every resource they need” in order to succeed.
“In the long run, the best way to defeat coronavirus is through a vaccine,” said Hancock.
“After all, this is a new disease, this is uncertain science, but I’m certain we will throw everything we’ve got at developing a vaccine.”
He said the UK had put more money than any other country into the “global search for a vaccine” and that the two main research centres were in the UK – at Imperial College London and the University of Oxford.
“Both of these promising projects are making rapid progress and I’ve told the scientists leading them we will do everything in our power to support,” he said, adding both were to receive more money.
The project at Imperial College London will get £22.5m to support its phase two clinical trials and Oxford University will be granted £20m to fund its clinical trials.
It came as the number of people who have died in hospitals across the UK after contracting coronavirus rose by 823 in 24 hours, bringing the working total to 17,337.
Scientists this week told HuffPost UK that the world should not pin its hopes on finding a vaccine. Jabs were never developed for Mers or Sars, two other diseases caused by coronavirus strains.