‘Highly effective’ Oxford vaccine raises hopes of normal life from April
New data from the University of Oxford’s trial released on Monday showed that its vaccine candidate is ‘highly effective,” sparking a wave of excitement due to its lower cost and logistics and prompting home secretary Matt Hancock to see normal life from Easter 2021.
The analysis of its data from the trial in the UK and Brazil said the AZD1222 vaccine is highly effective in preventing Covid-19, with no hospitalisations or severe cases reported in participants receiving the vaccine.
It is to be produced on a no-profit basis on a mass scale with biopharma major AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India, among others.
The UK regulator also announced on Monday that it has received data from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine candidate for approval. The Oxford vaccine, expected to cost nearly £3, is cheaper than Pfizer’s (around £15) or Moderna’s (£25) vaccines.
Speaking to the media after the Oxford results were released, Sarah Gilbert, leading vaccinologist, said: “The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by (the virus).”
Andrew Pollard, lead investigator of the Oxford vaccine, added: “We have a vaccine for the world. It prevents severe disease, hospitalisation and intriguingly in the results – although in the headline it is 70% protection – we do have a sub-group where we saw 90% protection.”
“The vaccine can be stored at fridge temperature. It can be distributed around the world using the usual immunisation distribution systems. We had a goal to have a vaccine that is accessible everywhere. We have actually managed to do that. This is an incredibly exciting moment for human health,” he said.
AstraZeneca said in its statement on the results: “One dosing regimen (n=2,741) showed vaccine efficacy of 90% when AZD1222 was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart, and another dosing regimen (n=8,895) showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart.”
“The combined analysis from both dosing regimens (n=11,636) resulted in an average efficacy of 70%. All results were statistically significant (p<=0.0001). More data will continue to accumulate and additional analysis will be conducted, refining the efficacy reading and establishing the duration of protection.”
The company said it is immediately preparing to submit data to authorities around the world that have a framework in place for conditional or early approval, including Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization for speedier availability in low-income countries.
The Boris Johnson government has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine and is putting in place the infrastructure for mass vaccination in over 40 centres across the UK from December, subject to the regulator clearing the vaccine.
The UK “could get back to normal after Easter”, Hancock said, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and others hailed the announcement.
Peter Horby, from the University of Oxford but not involved in the trial, said: “This is very welcome news, we can clearly see the end of tunnel now. There were no Covid hospitalisations or deaths in people who got the Oxford vaccine.”
Stephen Griffin, from the University of Leeds, added: “This is yet more excellent news and should be considered tremendously exciting. It has great potential to be delivered across the globe, achieving huge public health benefits.”