The COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by the University of Oxford and the AstraZeneca laboratory raises new hopes. The product is in the process of successfully passing Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials, and the UK government recently announced that it could be rolled out shortly after Christmas. New results confirm the efficacy of this candidate vaccine, both in the elderly and in young people.
With more than 44 million cases and more than 1.16 million deaths from COVID worldwide, treatments and vaccines for the disease are highly anticipated. The British formula currently being tested, dubbed AZD1222, produces a satisfactory immune response in patients of all ages, suggesting that this vaccine could protect the most vulnerable.
An identical immune response
The body’s immune system, and therefore its ability to fight viruses or other pathogens, weakens with age. This is one of the reasons the death rate from COVID-19 is higher among seniors. Therefore, for this age group in particular, the efficacy of vaccines under development is a source of uncertainty. However, phase 2 clinical trials of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine have shown that people over 56, as well as some over 70, produce the same type of immune response as young volunteers.
Tests also showed that older volunteers had fewer unwanted side effects overall, which scientists refer to as the reactogenicity of the vaccine. ” Results Strengthen Body of Evidence for Safety and Immunogenicity of AZD1222 An AstraZeneca spokesperson said. The lab said the vaccine could be ready for limited use within weeks. ” We expect efficacy readings from Phase 2/3 trials by the end of the year, and if approved in countries, doses of the potential vaccine could be available before the end of the year. “Said the spokesperson.
AstraZeneca is therefore very optimistic, but most experts outside the company, as well as the British Secretary of Health, Matt Hancock, expect that it will not be available before 2021. Nevertheless, the logistics necessary for the vaccine deployment – presumably in the first half of the year – is being prepared. AstraZeneca has pledged to mass manufacture its vaccine, with a capacity of 3 billion doses, enough for 1.5 billion people worldwide to each receive two doses. The laboratory has also signed agreements with manufacturers in other countries, such as India.
The AZD1222 vaccine is a so-called “viral vector” vaccine, made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (a coronavirus), which causes infections in chimpanzees. If the latest results are validated, AstraZeneca could be one of the first pharmaceutical companies to gain regulatory approval.
Note that BioNTech and Pfizer, which are jointly developing the BNT162b2 vaccine, are also in the process of clinical trials of their formula. Preclinical data has been submitted to the European Medicines Agency, which began evaluation of this vaccine candidate earlier this month. BNT162b2 is an mRNA vaccine; it is currently in a phase 3 clinical trial in more than 120 centers around the world and the preliminary results are also very encouraging.
Preventive effectiveness that remains to be proven
The final phase 3 trials of the British vaccine are underway in six countries: United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, Brazil, Japan and India. These ultimate tests aim in particular to show a significant difference, in terms of the number of deaths, between people vaccinated and those who are not; this step therefore assesses the efficacy and the benefit / risk ratio of the product.
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Several tens of thousands of volunteers have been recruited. In September, AstraZeneca suspended the clinical trial due to an unexplained illness contracted by a British patient. After verification, the tests finally resumed in several countries. On October 21, Brazil announced the death of a patient participating in the study. But according to several sources, this person had not received the dose of vaccine; she was in the control group, receiving a placebo instead of the tested vaccine. No other deaths have been reported to date.
The AZD1222 formula therefore seems to prove its worth. But Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, points out that no conclusions about the vaccine’s efficacy should be drawn until the data is published – indeed the first conclusions have only been were shared during a closed-door university meeting. Certainly, the immune response seems effective at all ages, but according to the specialist, further trials are needed to attest to the clinical effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing infection. High levels of antibodies in the blood suggest that the defenses are active, but there is no guarantee that they are protecting against the multiplication of the virus in the body.
If this vaccine is expected as the Messiah, many people believe that the first doses on the market will certainly not offer complete protection. At best, we can hope that the first vaccines offered will reduce the severity of the disease. This would already be a huge step forward, avoiding the hospitalization of patients and greatly reducing the number of deaths.
Source : The Guardian
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