Early results indicate AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is promising

The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and Astra Zeneca produced fewer side effects in people aged 56 and over than in younger people. ― AFP pic

The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and Astra Zeneca produced fewer side effects in people aged 56 and over than in younger people. ― AFP pic

Early phase trials generally check if the vaccine is safe and provokes an immune response, and are used to determine things like dosing and side effects.

Competition has intensified among pharmaceutical companies racing to develop a Covid-19 shot, with two vaccines - one by USA company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, and another by United States firm Moderna - publishing large-scale trial data this month that showed their jabs were around 95 percent effective against Covid-19.

Both vaccines require two doses.

They had their immune responses assessed on the day of the vaccination, then several more times over the coming weeks. "As a result, it is crucial that Covid-19 vaccines are tested in this group who are also a priority group for immunisation".

These Phase II results are consistent with the findings of University of Oxford's Phase I study.

Between May 20 and August 8, 560 participants were enrolled in the study including 100 adults (ages 18-55 years old) who received the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and 60 who received the control vaccine; 120 adults ages 59-69 years old received ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, and 40 adults ages 59-69 years old received the control vaccine; 200 adults over 70 years of age received ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, and 40 adults over 70 years of age received the control vaccine.

What are the side effects of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines?
Distribution of a Pfizer-BioNTech shot is complicated by the need to store it at ultra-cold temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius. The most common adverse event rated as "severe" in the trial was fatigue, in 3.7 percent of participants after the second dose.

Maheshi Ramasamy, a consultant and co-lead investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group hailed the preliminary results as "encouraging", but said his team needs to continue research.

"We believe that this makes the vaccine suitable for emergency use during the pandemic", Zhu added. The vaccine is now being studied in a Phase III trial; results are expected to be announced in the next few weeks. He told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Thursday that he was "delighted" that early results show a strong immune response "even in those over 70 years of age". T-cell response occurred within 14 days of the first dose of vaccination, and antibody response occurred within 28 days of the booster dose of vaccination. The ongoing study is a single-blind, multicenter, randomized, controlled phase II/III safety and efficacy study.

The scientists conducted the phase 1 trial between April 16 and April 25, 2020, and the phase 2 between May 3 and May 5, 2020.

The authors also note that the oldest age group in their study - whose average age is 73-74 - may not represent the general population because they happened to have relatively few underlying health conditions, given their age.

Professor Pollard said: "We're still waiting to get to the point where we can do the analysis to just work out how well the vaccine can protect people, and we're getting ever closer to that".

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