The Duke of Cambridge has delivered a shot in the arm to scientists working on a Covid-19 vaccine with a morale-boosting visit. Prince William wore a mask, goggles and protective coat as he heard about the Oxford Vaccine Group’s vital work to fight the virus. Describing the programme as "incredibly exciting," he also said his family were proud of the researchers’ efforts.
The Government has given the University of Oxford £84million to develop and manufacture the vaccine, while UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has agreed to make it available globally on a non-profit basis during the pandemic. Human trials began in the UK in April and have now begun in Brazil and South Africa in the hope that a successful vaccine might become available later this year.
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WATCH: Prince William visits coronavirus scientists to thank them for their efforts
At the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, the Duke met Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, who developed the vaccine, and Professor Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, who is leading the clinical trial team. Professor Gilbert explained how the team had had a head start because they had already been working on a generic vaccine to which the gene from a specific virus can be added.
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"You and your colleagues have obviously been working brilliantly on this, but you have obviously been working non-stop night and day, and there's a lot of pressure on you guys," said William. "How are you all coping with it?" Professor Gilbert said there had been "a few minor meltdowns," adding: "But everyone’s been incredibly supportive and we all just want to make this work."
"When it is announced that you have cracked it people will breathe a huge sigh of relief. People want there to be some sort of finality to it," said William. The Duke also met four volunteers taking part in the trials. One man told him: "I know your wife is very much into her hockey and I am a hockey coach, I just want to help to try to get things back to normal."
Prince William paid a socially distanced visit to the Oxford laboratory
Professor Pollard said: "These volunteers are crucially important, we can’t do this without them." "You’re in good hands, I’m sure," William told them. Wishing the team success as he left, Professor Pollard told him: "It’s success for the country and the world if these vaccines work, not for us."
William’s visit came after he joined a video call with some of those involved in the partnership, including AstraZeneca's CEO Pascal Soriot and Oxford University's vice-chancellor Professor Louise Richardson. He told them: "My family is very proud of everything that is going on here, particularly with the Oxford research side of things and the collaboration you are showing with AstraZeneca, I think it's fantastic."