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Hopes grow for coronavirus vaccine as two enter final phases

Pledged inquiry: Boris Johnson PICTURE: PA

HOPES for a coronavirus vaccine rose yesterday after breakthroughs by teams in Oxford and the US.

Prof Sarah Gilbert, of Oxford university, will report on Monday about a vaccine that generates antibodies and T-cells to attack the virus and is ‘80 per cent’ confident it can be ready by September. The government has already pre-ordered millions of doses from manufacturer AstraZeneca.

US company Moderna said every patient developed antibodies in a trial of its potential vaccine with only mild side-effects. Both potential vaccines still have to complete Phase Three trials involving thousands of volunteers, but Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, said: ‘No matter how you slice it this is good news.’

It came as Boris Johnson pledged to hold an independent inquiry to ‘learn the lessons’ of the UK’s handling of coronavirus as the death toll rose by 85 to 45,053 yesterday. No.10 refused to say whether the inquiry would be judge-led, when it would start, or whether it would be held in public.

The PM insisted Britain’s test-and-trace system is ‘as good as, or better than, any other system anywhere in the world’, and accused Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of ‘knocking the confidence of the country’, adding: ‘He has to decide whether he wants to back that programme or not. He has got more briefs than Calvin Klein.’

Sir Keir told him he was ‘kidding no one’, and warned: ‘Standing up every week saying, “It’s a stunning success” is not giving people confidence in the system.’

He asked if the PM had read a report calling for action to prevent the NHS being potentially overwhelmed by a second coronavirus wave in the winter. Mr Johnson said he was ‘aware’ of it.