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World Immunization Week: WHO highlights other diseases as coronavirus vaccine trials begin

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A researcher works on a vaccin against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020.
A researcher works on a vaccin against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020.   -   Copyright  THIBAULT SAVARY/AFP
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The beginning of UK clinical trials this week to find a coronavirus vaccine coincides with the start of World Immunization Week -- encouraging the use of vaccines to protect people against disease generally.

The event is promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO), which warned earlier this week that vaccinations must be maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid a resurgence of diseases such as measles and polio.

Some 117 million children are at risk of missing out on measles vaccines, WHO said.

As countries across the world race to find a vaccine for the coronavirus, Germany has announced that researchers in the country are starting clinical trials after regulators gave the green light.

BioNTech and its partner Pfizer have been received approval from the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute to begin testing a variety of experimental vaccines on 200 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55.

"This is a good signal that the development of a vaccine in Germany has progressed enough to start the first studies," said Health Minister Jens Spahn.

He warned that the process would take months.

British scientists are also at the forefront of vaccine research, backed by a total of £44.5 million (€51 million) in government funds.

A team at Oxford University began clinical trials on April 23, with tests to be carried out on 1,112 people who will be divided into two groups. Scientists want to stimulate the immune system to attack the virus.

A separate study at Imperial College London will use a different approach: using droplets of liquid to carry genetic material into a patient's bloodstream, replicating the coronavirus and forcing the immune system to learn how to fight it.

"We have to work out whether or not these vaccines work," Professor Andrew Pollard of the Oxford Vaccine Centre told Euronews. "There are... important questions from the trials, first of all about safety: what sort of reactions are likely to happen to the vaccine, that's why we need to get on and start the testing in humans."

It's hoped the results of the two UK trials could be known as early as September.

Authorities say the coronavirus crisis will linger until there's a safe and reliable vaccine available to the general public. The process normally takes years, and even in the current emergency experts warn that it could take many months.