Oxford vaccine found ‘safe’ in early trials; triggers immune system response

By Times of India

THE MUCH-AWAITED RESULT of Phase I/II trials of the Oxford University’s vaccine candidate ‘AZD1222’ has just been released and it just might be the first piece of good news in 2020. The results which have been published in the medical journal The Lancet reinstate the earlier media reports which cited that Oxford’s vaccine candidate is fit for human use and develops protective immunity in the body of the volunteers.

As per the latest update, Richard Horton, the editor of the UK-based science journal ‘The Lancet’ noted that “the vaccine is safe, well-tolerated, and immunogenic.” He also underlined that the results were “extremely encouraging.”

For the unversed, stage III of clinical trials (or human trials) is where medical experts and scientists dose thousands of volunteers with the vaccine candidate to understand if the vaccination provides active protection against the coronavirus.

This is the final stage trial done just before getting approval from the regulatory authorities to launch the vaccine for mass-usage. As of now, vaccine candidates developed by the University of Oxford, Chinese company Sinopharm and Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinovac have reached the Phase III of human trials.

Touted as one of the frontrunners in the race to develop a vaccine fit for human use, Oxford University’s vaccine candidate has been in the news recently owing to various media reports, which claim that the potential vaccine has shown extremely promising results in its Phase I trials.

While the researchers and developers of the AstraZeneca-backed potential vaccine did not comment on the media reports doing rounds, the Lancet medical journal published the data of Phase I trial of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, today. The results were found to be “extremely promising” and the vaccine candidate has been deemed fit for human use.

The UK drugmaker AstraZeneca has been given the license to produce Oxford’s potential coronavirus vaccine. Additionally, there have been reports that the vaccine developed by Oxford’s Jenner Institute has shown extremely promising results in the development of ‘double protection’ against the virus.

The reports maintain that the researchers at Oxford University are hopeful of the vaccine’s success as it is shown to trigger the production of both the protective antibodies and “Killer T-cells” in the body.

The development of T-cells in the volunteers by the AZD1222–which are known to last much longer in the human body after contracting the virus–comes as a sigh of relief. This is because recent studies have found that the protective antibodies produced in the survivors of Covid-19 started waning after just three months, which could prove to be a big roadblock in the development of a vaccine for coronavirus.

The vaccine candidate was developed within 3 months by the Jenner Institute of the Oxford University and has been made using the genetic material of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 combined with weakened version adenovirus. Adenoviruses actually cause common cold in chimpanzees.

Currently, Phase III trials of the AZD1222 are being conducted in Brazil on thousands of volunteers to understand the safety and efficacy of the vaccine candidate. On the other hand, Serum Institute of India, which is the largest vaccine manufacturer of the world by volume, has teamed with UK drugmaker AstraZeneca to manufacturer 1 billion doses of Covid vaccine.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII told PTI, “At present, we are working on the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine which is undergoing phase III clinical trials. In addition to this, we will also start human trials in India in August 2020. Based on the current situation and most recent updates on the clinical trials, we are hoping that the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine will be available towards the end of this year.”


Top: A nurse preparing to give a patient a vaccine. Photo: David Cheskin / PA published by The Guardian

Below: Sample from patients are analysed as part of the trial. Photos: Oxford University published by BBC


TNR staff
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