Prince William visits British teams working on a coronavirus vaccine


Prince William appeared in high spirits as he visited a British team working on a coronavirus vaccine and spoke to some of the people testing it out. 

The Duke of Cambridge, 38, who is currently living at his Norfolk home of Anmer Hall with Kate Middleton, 38, and his children Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, five, and Prince Louis, two, visited the University of Oxford’s Oxford Vaccine Group at the city’s Churchill Hospital yesterday.

The royal sported a protective face mask as he chatted with staff and volunteers who were taking part in clinical trials. 

The Oxford team is at the forefront of the global race to develop a vaccine to COVID-19 and is now testing whether it offers immunity in humans.

The Duke of Cambridge sports a protective mask during his visit yesterday

Prince William, 38, (pictured) visited the Oxford Vaccine Group’s facility at the Churchill Hospital yesterday where he met with staff members and clinical trial volunteers

The Duke of Cambridge sported a protective face mask while chatting with staff (above) at the laboratory

The Duke of Cambridge sported a protective face mask while chatting with staff (above) at the laboratory 

Princess Diana pictured wearing a mask as she watches an operation on a child at Harefield hospital, Middlesex in 1996

Princess Diana pictured wearing a mask as she watches an operation on a child at Harefield hospital, Middlesex in 1996

Dressed in a light blue blazer and shirt, Prince William cut a casual figure as he arrived at the research laboratories. 

He also donned a protective coat and goggles as he toured one of the research laboratories.

The UK Government has provided £84million for the University of Oxford to develop and manufacture its coronavirus vaccine. 

And the University’s partnership with AstraZeneca, the UK-based pharmaceutical company, means the vaccine will be available globally on a non-profit basis during the pandemic period.    

During his visit, the father-of-three was briefed about the group’s work by Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, who developed the vaccine.

Prince William stood at a distance as he spoke with volunteers (pictured) who are taking part in clinical trials

Prince William stood at a distance as he spoke with volunteers (pictured) who are taking part in clinical trials

The Duke spoke with several volunteers participating in the Covid-19 vaccine trial at the Oxford Vaccine Group's facility at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford

The Duke spoke with several volunteers participating in the Covid-19 vaccine trial at the Oxford Vaccine Group’s facility at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford

The royal opted for a blue blazer for the visit, and wore a facemask as he spoke with those inside the facility

The royal opted for a blue blazer for the visit, and wore a facemask as he spoke with those inside the facility 

He also spoke with Professor Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, who is leading the clinical trial team. 

The second in line to the throne was shown around the laboratory where the vaccine was produced as well as another where samples from the clinical trial are being examined by researchers. 

The trials began on April 23, with ten thousand people across the UK in the process of being vaccinated in the latest study to assess the potential success of the treatment. 

Prince William met volunteers from the clinical trials and spoke to them about their experiences during the process.  

Meanwhile outside the facility, the Duke could be seen sharing a laugh with staff members at the Oxford hospital. 

Meanwhile he also donned a protective coat and goggles (seen right) as he toured inside one of the research laboratories

Meanwhile he also donned a protective coat and goggles (seen right) as he toured inside one of the research laboratories

Prince William could be seen watching on as scientists within the Oxford lab, where they are trying to find a vaccine for coronavirus, worked

Prince William could be seen watching on as scientists within the Oxford lab, where they are trying to find a vaccine for coronavirus, worked 

Following his visit, the duke chatted via video call to representatives from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford as well as from CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. 

WHAT IS THE OXFORD VACCINE?

The vaccine is called AZD1222 and is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees that has been genetically changed so it is impossible for it to grow in humans.

The intellectual rights to its vaccine are owned by the University of Oxford and a spin-out company called Vaccitech. 

Clinical teams at the Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group began developing the vaccine in January.  

It’s a type of immunisation known as a recombinant viral vector vaccine. 

Researchers place genetic material from the coronavirus into another virus that’s been modified. They will then inject the virus into a human, hoping to produce an immune response against SARS-CoV-2. 

This virus, weakened by genetic engineering, is a type of virus called an adenovirus, the same as those which cause common colds, that has been taken from chimpanzees. 

If the vaccines can successfully mimic the spikes inside a person’s bloodstream, and stimulate the immune system to create special antibodies to attack it, this could train the body to destroy the real coronavirus if they get infected with it in future.

It was developed so rapidly by Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology, and her team because they already had a base vaccine for similar coronaviruses. 

The team have gone through stages of vaccine development that usually take five years in just four months.  

However, Professor Gilbert said that none of the normal safety steps had been missed out.   

He heard how the AstraZeneca-Oxford partnership has placed British science and innovation at the heart of the global response to the pandemic. 

Prince William heard how the partners were committed to ensuring global, equitable access to the vaccine.

It comes as it was revealed yesterday one of the scientists working on the vaccine played down hopes that it could be rolled out in September, which had been set as a ‘reasonable target date’.

Professor Adrian Hill said the ‘best scenario’ would now be for it to be delivered from October. That delay would be closer to winter, when the flu season coinciding with a second peak of coronavirus could threaten to overwhelm hospitals.

Scientists around the world are racing to find a vaccine, which is considered to be the only way to safely stop the pandemic and end draconian lockdowns designed to contain the virus. But experts fear one won’t be ready until 2021.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week announced frontline NHS and social care workers, over-50s and Britons with heart or kidney disease would be the first in line to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

It marks the second public engagement the Duke has undertaken, after he resumed public duties today with a socially distanced visit to the Kings Lynn Ambulance Station at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last week. 

Prince William thanked staff from the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) for their work and dedication responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

During the visit he took the opportunity to ask about their experiences over the past few months.

He heard about the work that has been carried out to ensure that the EEAST has been able to continue to provide its services throughout the pandemic, including working collaboratively across blue lights services, and the personal measures which staff have taken to support these efforts.

Prince William is also backing efforts to ‘end the illegal wildlife trade for good’ as a new report highlights the global threat of the criminal activity.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the money laundering and terrorism funding watchdog, said it is concerned about the lack of focus on the financial aspects of the major transnational crime, which it estimates to be worth between 7 and 23 billion US dollars (£5.6 and £18.5 billion) per year.

Working in collaboration with the Duke of Cambridge’s United For Wildlife organisation, the FATF has released a report which assesses the money laundering aspects of wildlife crimes.

In its report, published on Thursday, it details the common methods used by traffickers to launder money, which ‘fuels corruption and threatens biodiversity’ as well as adversely affects public health and the economy.

Prince William has praised the FATF for its report, saying it is ‘a pivotal moment in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.’

The Duke of Cambridge (centre) wore the mask mask as he met scientists during a visit to the manufacturing laboratory where a vaccine against COVID-19 has been produced

The Duke of Cambridge (centre) wore the mask mask as he met scientists during a visit to the manufacturing laboratory where a vaccine against COVID-19 has been produced

In a video message on Thursday, he said: ‘The work that has been done will help authorities trace the finances of the transnational organised crime gangs that facilitate this abhorrent activity.

‘It underlines the need for us to work together to tackle the ill-gotten gains of wildlife poachers and traffickers and put a stop to this multi-billion criminal dollar enterprise.’

He said he is pleased the FATF and United for Wildlife were using the report to educate governments around the world, adding: ‘This will help to improve and co-ordinate the public and private sectors to detect, disrupt and prevent this crime.

‘Because it is only through prioritising this issue and following the money that we will stop these criminals in their tracks.

‘Once again, I am grateful to you all for your continued efforts to end the illegal wildlife trade for good.’

Meanwhile the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Charles and Camilla have also all returned to public duty in the last few weeks.

Kate visited a garden centre last week, while Prince Charles and Camilla made a visit to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. 

During the brief conversations, Charles revealed he lost his sense of taste and smell while suffering from coronavirus in March. 

The royal went on to speak to other staff members outside the facility, and appeared in high spirits during the conversation

The royal went on to speak to other staff members outside the facility, and appeared in high spirits during the conversation 

The royal could be seen standing on a marking on the grass as he remained at a distance from those he was meeting

The royal could be seen standing on a marking on the grass as he remained at a distance from those he was meeting 

The royal appeared relaxed as he took part in his second public engagement since the coronavirus pandemic began

The royal appeared relaxed as he took part in his second public engagement since the coronavirus pandemic began  

The Duke of Cambridge (seen bottom) in a video call to representatives from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford as well as from CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance

The Duke of Cambridge (seen bottom) in a video call to representatives from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford as well as from CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance

In April, Prince William told of his fears for his father Prince Charles after he was diagnosed with coronavirus and had to self-isolated at his Scottish home of Birkhall.

He said: ‘I have to admit at first I was quite concerned, he fits the profile of somebody, at the age he’s at, which is, you know, fairly risky, and so I was a little bit worried.

‘But my father has had many chest infections, colds and things like that over the years and so I thought to myself (if) anybody’s going to be able to beat this it’s going to be him.’

William added that Charles was ‘very lucky he had mild symptoms’ and told how he ”got a lot of good reassurance from doctors and friends of mine who said ‘listen, the days he’s on when we found out about it, he’s probably passed the worst of it’.’

Prince William returned to public duty last week by visiting the East of England Ambulance Service Trust during a visit to the Ambulance Station in King's Lynn

Prince William returned to public duty last week by visiting the East of England Ambulance Service Trust during a visit to the Ambulance Station in King’s Lynn

The Duke continued: ‘And obviously speaking to him made me feel more reassured that he was OK, but again at that age you do worry a bit more.’

In April, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Royal Foundation site revealed the couple’s plan to provide ‘practical support’ and help frontline workers with ‘mental health needs’ amid the coronavirus crisis.

A statement on the official website detailed how their organisation will ‘do all it can to support those on the frontline of responding to COVID-19 in the UK.’

The update details the couple’s plans to connect their patronages with charities that can offer practical support for frontline responders, and plans to promote and support mental health charities, as well as ‘thanking and celebrating those working on the frontline’ of the crisis.

Earlier this year, Prince WIlliam opened up about his concerns when he learned his father Prince Charles had contracted coronavirus (pictured together in an image released for Father's Day)

Earlier this year, Prince WIlliam opened up about his concerns when he learned his father Prince Charles had contracted coronavirus (pictured together in an image released for Father’s Day) 

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