Boston, MA — Scientists at Oxford University say their experimental coronavirus vaccine has been shown in an early trial to prompt a protective immune response in hundreds of people who received the shot.
Testing for the vaccine began in April by British researchers with about 1,000 people. Half of those got the experimental vaccine. These initial trials are designed to evaluate the safety of the drug and see what kind of immune response is provoked. However, it’s unclear if the vaccine truly protects.
Research published this past Monday in the journal Lancet, scientists said that they found their experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55 that lasted at least two months after they were immunized.
“We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,” said Dr. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. “What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system,” he said.
Hill said that neutralizing antibodies are produced — molecules which are key to blocking infection. In addition, the vaccine also causes a reaction in the body’s T-cells which help to fight off the coronavirus.
The AP is reporting, “the experimental COVID-19 vaccine caused minor side effects like fever, chills, and muscle pain more often than in those who got a control meningitis vaccine.”
Larger trials evaluating the vaccine’s effectiveness involving about 10,000 people in the United Kingdom as well as people in South Africa and Brazil are still underway. A major trial is schedule to start in the United States soon that is seeking to enroll about 30,000 participants.
Dr. Hill estimates they might have sufficient data by the end of the year to decide if the vaccine should be adopted for larger vaccination campaigns. Hill said Oxford has partnered with drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce their vaccine globally, and that the company has already committed to making 2 billion doses.
“Global planning is underway, but should be underpinned and informed by specific local realities,” they wrote. “Only this way can these very encouraging first earlyphase randomised trial results yield the global remedy for which we all yearn.”
Last week, American researchers announced that the first COVID-19 vaccine tested there boosted people’s immune systems just as scientists had hoped and the shots will now enter the final phase of testing. That vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna, produced the molecules key to blocking infection in volunteers who got it, at levels comparable to people who survived a COVID-19 infection.
The Nearly two dozen potential vaccines are in various stages of human testing worldwide, with a handful entering necessary late-stage testing to prove effectiveness.
British officials said Monday they had also signed a deal to buy 90 million doses of experimental COVID-19 vaccines being developed by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and others.
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