World Health Organization welcomes news on AstraZeneca vaccine, awaits trial data

Henrietta Brewer
November 24, 2020

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has confirmed that its coronavirus vaccine is now ready for regulatory approval and rollout, after late-stage trial results found the vaccine to be up to 90% effective.

Sarah Gilbert, lead researcher of the vaccine development programme, and Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford, said she was "incredibly relieved" that the jab was successful, and now wanted to get some sleep before getting back to work.

The results are based on interim analysis of trials in Britain and Brazil of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. Combining the data from the two arms of the trial produced an overall efficacy for the vaccine of 70 percent.

Pfizer and Moderna last week reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were nearly 95% effective.

If the regimen of a half dose plus full dose is approved by regulators, that would have the added advantage of allowing many more people to be vaccinated with the current planned supply.

The success rate of the vaccine that the United States company Pfizer and the German BioNTech have been working on is the highest of any vaccine that has been tested in the last clinical stages so far, and experts say it is a great achievement in the race to end the pandemic.

As to why the latter combination may be more effective even though it involves less of the vaccine, Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, explained to journalists Monday that this result could reflect the "priming" the immune system.

American company Moderna subsequently released preliminary data on its vaccine showing its 94.5 percent effective.

The European Union has been holding talks with Moderna regarding its experimental vaccine since July, according to Reuters. For the 2,741 participants who received a half dose followed by a full dose one month later, the vaccine was 90% effective, AstraZeneca said.

"By using only half the normal dose, the 40 million projected doses before the end of the year could then become 80 million", Cheng pointed out.

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. This means that AstraZeneca/Oxford have had more time for follow-up and for participants to contract coronavirus.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, also said 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.

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