How the Oxford vaccine works: The half dose regime that surprised scientists

Grant Boone
November 23, 2020

Britain's AstraZeneca said on Monday its vaccine for the novel coronavirus could be around 90 percent effective without any serious side effects, giving the world another important tool to halt the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday's statement said "positive high-level results from an interim analysis of clinical trials of AZD1222 in the United Kingdom and Brazil showed the vaccine was highly effective in preventing Covid-19... and no hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease were reported in participants".

AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage results for its potential COVID-19 vaccine as public health officials around the world anxiously wait for vaccines that will end the pandemic that has killed nearly 1.4 million people.

"This vaccine's efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency, " Soriot said.

AstraZeneca has been ramping up manufacturing capacity, so it can supply hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine starting in January, Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said earlier this month.

It added: "One dosing regimen (n=2,741) showed vaccine efficacy of 90 percent when AZD1222 was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart".

The interim analysis included a total of 131 Covid-19 cases, according to the release. "I would have given my eye teeth for".

"For the bigger picture, my suspicion is that by the time we are a year down the line, we'll be using all three vaccines with about 90% protection - and we'll be a lot happier".

Astra and Oxford have been among the fastest-moving vaccine developers from early on in the pandemic.

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"What we've always tried to do with the vaccine is fool the immune system into thinking that there's a risky infection so we get new memory, and that it's there waiting and ready if the pathogen itself is then encountered".

It said the vaccine can be stored, transported and handled "at normal refrigerated conditions" of between two and eight degrees Celsius (36-46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months.

"I have this evening been briefed by the Australian CEO who has confirmed that AstraZeneca is now looking to proceed with Australia regulatory approval in the coming weeks, if not sooner", Mr Hunt said.

Nevertheless, the preliminary trial results still represent a fresh breakthrough in the fight against a virus that has killed almost 1.4 million people, brought global travel to a standstill and devastated the world's economy. Officials said its success means normal life can return sooner.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has greeted the news with enthusiasm., tweeting: "Incredibly exciting news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials".

The STOXX index of Europe's 600 largest shares rose 0.5 percent to its highest since February but AstraZeneca shares fell more than 2 percent as traders perceived the efficacy data as disappointing compared with rivals.

The vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that is combined with genetic material for the characteristic spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The U.K. company is now preparing to submit data to global authorities in order to get a conditional or early approval for its vaccine, the company said.

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