COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccineiStock

An Oxford University professor has said that a vaccine against the coronavirus' new mutations should be ready by October, Sky News reported.

According to the university's Professor Andrew Pollard, who heads the team working on the vaccine, tweaking the vaccine is a relatively fast process and needs only small trials before the vaccine can be rolled out.

He added that his team, which is producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, is already working on the updates.

"I think the actual work on designing a new vaccine is very, very quick because it's essentially just switching out the genetic sequence for the spike protein, for the updated variants," he told an AstraZeneca media briefing. "And then there's manufacturing to do and then a small scale study. So all of that can be completed in a very short period of time, and the autumn is really the timing for having new vaccines available for use rather than for having the clinical trials run."

He explained that the new trials would include hundreds of people, but that, "The reason why it's such a small number is because, with an updated vaccine, the question is whether immune responses still look the same but against the new variants as they emerge. We don't need to run studies on a large scale to prove efficacy. And so that's why they're much quicker and much smaller to conduct."

AstraZeneca official Sir Mene Pangalos added: "Our ambition is to be ready for the next round of immunizations that may be necessary as we go into next winter. That's what we're aiming for."

"We're very much aiming to try and have something ready by the autumn. So, this year."

Though studies show that existing vaccines provide some protection against the South African mutation of COVID-19, they have also showed reduced efficacy against it.