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OXFORD Uni’s Covid vaccine triggers an immune response in all ages – including the elderly, new results published today reveal.
In an important step, the jab – being developed with AstraZeneca – was found to “trigger a robust immune response” with no serious side effects in those aged 56-69 and the over 70s.
Phase two data from the ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 vaccine raise hopes of efficacy readings from phase three “in the coming weeks”.
Responding to the news, Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “There is still much work to be done, but this is a really encouraging set of findings from the @UniofOxford and @AstraZeneca vaccine.”
The UK Government has 100million doses of the jab pre-ordered, with four million of those likely to be available next month – if it’s given the green light.
Professor Andrew Pollard, the head of Oxford’s vaccine trial team, today said it’s too early to know the jab’s effectiveness – but the results of late-stage trials should “definitely be known before Christmas”.
Once phase three results are published, AstraZeneca will have to wait for final safety data before they can apply to the MHRA here, and FDA in the US for approval.
It’s only then that the jabs could be rolled out, with the NHS on standby from December 1.
Dr Maheshi Ramasamy, investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group and consultant physician, said the next step is to find out if the jab protects against Covid-19.
“Older adults are a priority group for Covid-19 vaccination, because they are at increased risk of severe disease, but we know that they tend to have poorer vaccine responses,” she said.
“We were pleased to see that our vaccine was not only well tolerated in older adults; it also stimulated similar immune responses to those seen in younger volunteers.
“The next step will be to see if this translates into protection from the disease itself.”
We do know with these vaccines that adults tend to feel a bit ropey the day after they have been vaccinated… but that was very, much less
Professor Andrew Pollard, the head of Oxford’s vaccine trial team, said he is “absolutely delighted” with the latest trial results.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he said: “The other thing that we found which I think is really important is the vaccine is really well tolerated in those who are over 55.
“We do know with these vaccines that adults tend to feel a bit ropey the day after they have been vaccinated… but that was very, very much less, particularly in those who are over 70.
“And that’s absolutely great news because if it’s well tolerated that’s going to really help with roll out should we be able to show that the vaccine actually works.”
Asked if it was too early to say whether the vaccine stops disease developing, he said: “We haven’t quite got to that point yet. We’re obviously not going to rush that.”
Responding to questions around when the trial investigators would be unblinded to efficacy data and results released, he said: “We’re getting close, and it’s definitely going to be before Christmas, based on the progress.”
Speaking about vaccine development by teams around the world, Professor Andrew Pollard said: “We’re still at the bottom of that mountain, in some ways, but we’ve done the route into the bottom of the mountain – the long trek to get to the start.
“Now we’ve got to get the data about the vaccines in front of regulators for them to scrutinise it and approve the first vaccines, and then we’ve got that huge effort to climb up to the top where we’ve got a vast majority of those who are at risk vaccinated and protected, so that the most vulnerable are no longer at risk, and we can start to get back to normal.”
It comes just a day after Pfizer/BioNTech reported its vaccine has passed safety checks, and the company said they will make an application to the regulator in the US “within days” before applying in Europe.
The data raises hopes that their jab could be given the green light within weeks, meaning the roll out in the UK could start by mid-December.
Pfizer was the first company to report its vaccine is effective, with it’s latest data showing the jab is 95 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19.
On Monday, Moderna followed suit and become the second firm to announce their jab is 94.5 per cent effective. Their vaccine is yet to pass the final safety check stage.
Prof Andrew Pollard said there is “no competition” between different vaccines because “we need multiple vaccines to be successful”.
He added that the Oxford vaccine, which studies suggest would not need to be kept at temperatures as low as those made by Pfizer and Moderna, is being developed for distribution “everywhere” including places with limited infrastructure for ultra-cold storage.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We’re really looking globally, we want to be able to get to every corner of the world if indeed the vaccine is shown to work.
“The thing that matters with vaccines is the impact it can have, and that is, can you get it to people and are they being vaccinated, so until you’ve got high coverage and you’re able to prevent the disease in those who are most vulnerable, we won’t get there.
“That’s why we need multiple vaccines to be successful. It’s fantastic news that Pfizer and Moderna have got there, and clearly will be getting themselves prepared for their regulatory submissions.
“But there’s no competition between them and the other vaccines, we need all of them to be successful, because we’ve got a lot of people to protect all around the globe.”
Now the latest results from the Oxford jab – thought to be among the front runners – raise hopes that we could have three approved jabs within weeks.
The data, published in The Lancet, suggest that one of the groups most vulnerable to serious illness, and death from Covid-19, could build immunity.
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said in its interim guidance that care home residents and workers, as well as those over 80 should be first in line for the first available Covid jabs.
But that advice rests on the vaccines actually working in the elderly, which is not always a given.
The Oxford findings add to those from Pfizer and Moderna, which have both already reported their phase III efficacy results and are 95 per cent effective.
Reporting on their phase three data today, scientists at Oxford University said volunteers across all age groups in their trial showed antibody and T cell responses.
They tested their jab on 560 healthy adults in three groups, 18-55, 56-79, and over 70.
The Oxford researchers said no serious adverse side effects were seen in those who had the vaccine.
The latest findings back up data from Oxford’s phase I trial, which published results for healthy adults aged 18-55 earlier this year.
The findings in the older age groups are significant because for most vaccines, older adults tend not to produce as strong an immune response as younger people.
Dr Ramasamy added: “Inducing robust immune responses in older adults has been a long-standing challenge in human vaccine research.
“To show this vaccine technology is able to induce these responses, in the age group most at risk from severe Covid-19 disease, offers hope that vaccine efficacy will be similar in younger and older adults.”
Dr Ramasamy’s team also found their vaccine was less likely to cause adverse reactions at the injection site, or symptoms on the day of vaccination in older adults compared with younger gropps.
The phase three trials of the ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 vaccine are ongoing, with early efficacy readings possible in the coming weeks, the researchers added.
Dr Michael Tildesley, who sits on a Sage sub-group, said the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford is “going to be hopefully one of the key game changers” because the number of doses acquired by the Government will allow the UK to “hopefully reach that magic herd immunity”.
The latest trial results for the vaccine suggest it produces a strong immune response in older adults, which Dr Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling (SPI-M) group, told BBC Breakfast is “the really key thing” for preventing deaths.
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News – Good news as Oxford’s Covid jab ‘DOES trigger antibodies in the elderly’