While reportedly less effective than Moderna or Pfizer's vaccines, Oxford's is significantly cheaper, and can be stored at refrigerator temperatures.
Oxford vaccine 70 percent effective against COVID-19
While the interim data shows 70% protection against the COVID-19 coronavirus, the researchers suggest the effectiveness could rise to 90% if point-of-care health care professionals tweak the dose.
This comes after Moderna and Pfizer vaccines showed a 95% protection rate — in addition to one from Russia, which initially showed a 90% effectivity rate. But unlike the U.S. alternatives, Oxford's vaccine is much cheaper, is easier to store and transfer to anywhere in the world than its rivals.
This means the Oxford vaccine will play a crucial role in combatting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic — once it gains approval from regulators.
New results 'incredibly exciting,' said UK Prime Minister
"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]," said Professor Sarah Gilbert, the architect of the vaccine.
As of writing, the U.K. government has already pre-ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine — and AstraZeneca claims it will create three billion doses for the entire planet in 2021.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this was an "incredibly exciting" development, and added that while there are necessary safety checks needed, "these are fantastic results."
Oxford COVID-19 vaccine more effective than flu shot
The Oxford vaccine was developed in roughly 10 months — an accelerated process experts typically take a decade to complete, reports BBC. In general, 30 cases of COVID-19 in patients who received two doses of the Oxford vaccine, and 101 cases of patients who were given a dummy (or placebo) injection.
The researchers behind the new study said their vaccine showed 70% protection — which is notably better than the seasonal flu vaccine.
Crucially, no one who received the real vaccine saw severe COVID-19 symptoms or required hospitalization. Trial Lead Investigator Professor Andrew Pollard said he was "really pleased" with the results of the trial, and added they mean "we have a vaccine for the world."
New COVID-19 vaccine also reduced asymptomatic cases
Significantly, the Oxford vaccine saw a 90% protection rate during the analysis of roughly 3,000 people participating in the trial who received two doses — one half-sized, and then another full-size dose.
This means there will be "a lot more doses to distribute," according to Pollard. Additionally, the analysis of the trial showed a drop in the number of people contracting the disease without showing symptoms (or were asymptomatic), and therefore could have still transmitted the disease.
Oxford vaccine will start with healthcare workers, elderly
There are already four million doses of the Oxford vaccine ready to ship, but they need approval from regulators before this can happen — to evaluate the vaccine's effectiveness, high manufacturing standard, and safety, which will move forward in the coming weeks.
Notably, it's not yet clear who will receive the vaccine or other vaccines the U.K. government has ordered. But the U.K. is primed to begin the most massive immunization campaign in the nation's history — dwarfing both childhood vaccination and annual flu programs.
First in line for the vaccine are home care (hospice) residents and staff, then healthcare workers in general. After they are vaccinated, people older than 80 will receive the medication. The subsequent roll-out will work backward from there through the age groups of the U.K. population.
Oxford COVID-19 vaccine could see US trials in weeks
The U.S.-based Astra trial has injected roughly 10,500 people with both (first and second trial) doses. Astra's Head of Biopharma Research Mene Pangalos told reporters the team aims to open talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as soon as possible — to begin administering the half-dose and full-dose protocol in weeks, Bloomberg reports.
"That scenario is possible," referring to the possibility of regulators moving forward with the vaccine before the U.S., said Pangalos, reports Bloomberg. "We need to share the data with the FDA, which we will do very quickly, and then we will work out what the most appropriate steps are."
As a unique medication — a genetically modified cold virus previously infectious to chimpanzees — the Oxford vaccine introduces recipients to a blueprint of the coronavirus, mimicking the spike protein that has proven so dangerous to humans. Healthcare solutions to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic have moved forward at speeds no one thought possible a year ago, but we're finally inching closer to a world after the crisis.
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