Coronavirus latest news: UK on ‘edge of losing control’ of virus, says Sage adviser

Oxford’s Sir John Bell: ‘We’re not going to beat the second wave’

At lunchtime on Tuesday, Sir John Bell received a call telling him that the groundbreaking Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial would, regretfully, be paused. Hours later, news of an urgent investigation into an “unexplained illness” in one of the trial volunteers began spreading across the world. It was, as White House adviser Anthony Fauci described it, “unfortunate”.

If the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency comes back and says it’s all over, “then it’s all over”, says Sir John, the Government’s leading life sciences adviser. “That’s just the way the game works.”

But the 68-year-old Canadian, who sits on the UK’s vaccine taskforce, doesn’t appear anxious. “When I got the call from Andrew Pollard [who leads the project], I told him look, fine, this stuff happens in clinical trials all the time. People who don’t do clinical trials see it and think, this is a disaster. But, when you’ve got so many people in the study, it’s really not very surprising to be honest.”

Sir John has more experience in this area than most. As one of the world’s top immunologists and Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, he knows how these things can go.

The majority of vaccines take around eight years to develop. “And we’ve been at this for just eight months.”

Read the full interview by Hannah Boland here