One of the world’s leading experimental COVID-19 vaccines is producing an immune response in young and old adults, raising hopes of a way out of the gloom and economic destruction caused by the novel coronavirus.
The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers weaker adverse reactions in the elderly, UK drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, which helps manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday.
A vaccine that works is seen as a game changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, shut down swathes of the global economy and disrupted the normal lives of billions of people.
“It is encouraging to see that the immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that the reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the severity of COVID-19 disease is higher,” said said an AstraZeneca spokesperson.
“The results strengthen the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222,” the spokesperson said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine.
The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first of the big pharmaceutical companies to gain regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and the BioNTech nominee, as the world tries to chart a course out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news that older people get an immune response from the vaccine is positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are most at risk of dying from the virus.
If it works, a vaccine would allow the world to return to some normalcy after the tumult of the pandemic.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a vaccine was not yet ready, but was preparing logistics for a possible deployment, mainly in the first half of 2021.
When asked if some people could get a vaccine this year, he told the BBC: “I’m not ruling this out, but it’s not my main expectation.”
“The program is progressing well, (but) we’re not there yet,” Hancock said.
COMMON COLD VIRUS
Work on the Oxford vaccine began in January. Called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the viral vector vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees.
The chimpanzee cold virus has been genetically modified to include the genetic sequence of the so-called spike protein that the coronavirus uses to enter human cells. The hope is that the human body will then attack the new coronavirus if it sees it again.
Immunogenicity blood tests performed on a subset of older participants echo data released in July that showed the vaccine generated “robust immune responses” in a group of healthy adults aged 18 to 18. 55, reported the Financial Times earlier.
Details of the discovery are expected to be published soon in a clinical journal, the FT said. He did not name the post.
People familiar with the results of so-called immunogenicity blood tests performed on a subset of older participants say the results echo data released in July which showed the vaccine generated “robust immune responses” in a group of healthy adults aged 18 to 55.
AstraZeneca has signed multiple supply and manufacturing agreements with companies and governments around the world as it nears the first results of an advanced clinical trial.
It resumed U.S. testing of the experimental vaccine after approval from U.S. regulators, the company said on Friday.
Staff at a London hospital have been told they are ready to receive the first batches of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, The Sun newspaper reported on Monday.
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