Oxford University has taken the lead in the race to find a COVID-19 cure, today announcing its vaccine is safe and has produced an immune response in early stage clinical trials in healthy volunteers.
The experimental vaccine, called AZD1222, was administered to 1077 healthy adults aged 18–55 years with no history of COVID-19.
Early preliminary trial results published in The Lancet medical journal show it did not prompt serious side effects and produced antibody and T-cell immune responses. The strongest response was seen in people who received two doses.
Researchers said any side effects that were caused by the vaccine could be reduced by taking paracetamol – with no adverse effects from the vaccine.
“We hope this means the immune system will remember the virus, so that our vaccine will protect people for an extended period,” said study lead author Andrew Pollard.
“However, we need more research before we can confirm the vaccine effectively protects against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection, and for how long any protection lasts.”
Several countries have already signed agreements with AstraZeneca to produce the vaccine should it prove effective and gain regulatory approval.
The UK government has already signed a deal to secure 100 million doses of the initial one billion doses of the vaccine to be produced. The US has a contract in place for 300 million.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “very positive news” but was careful to add that further trials would still be required.
“There are no guarantees, we’re not there yet and further trials will be necessary – but this is an important step in the right direction,” he tweeted.
Researchers also expressed caution.
“There is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” said vaccine developer Sarah Gilbert.
“We still do not know how strong an immune response we need to provoke to effectively protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
Should the vaccine prove successful, a million doses could be manufactured by September, depending on how quickly late-stage trials can be completed, the vaccine could be in use by the end of the year, said the director of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, Adrian Hill.
Manufacturer AstraZeneca has said it will not seek to profit from the vaccine during the pandemic.
“Today’s data increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale for broad and equitable access around the world,” said AstraZeneca’s Mene Pangalos.
Would you prefer to see a vaccine thoroughly tested or would you be prepared to take the risk on a rushed product?
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