Coronavirus vaccine breakthrough raises hopes of rapid global rollout

Coronavirus vaccine breakthrough raises hopes of rapid global rollout

A coronavirus vaccine developed by Great Britain's Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has shown successful results in early trials.  If approved by regulators, the vaccine seems suitable for rapid deployment around the world.

A coronavirus vaccine developed by Great Britain’s Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has shown successful results in early trials. If approved by regulators, the vaccine seems suitable for rapid deployment around the world.

Early analyzes of trials involving 20,000 volunteers in Britain and Brazil show that the vaccine is at least 62% effective after two doses. In volunteers who received a different dosing regimen (half dose, followed by a full dose), that figure increased to 90%. The average efficacy of the two dosing methods is 70%. None of those who received the vaccine developed a serious illness from COVID-19.

Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the recent successful trials of three different vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna represent a scientific breakthrough.

“It really feels like a great moment that we now have multiple shots. If we can implement them as soon as possible, we are going to have a huge impact, ”Pollard said.

Differences from other vaccines

AstraZeneca plans to begin supplying hundreds of millions of doses by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval. Several properties of the vaccine make it suitable for worldwide launch, according to Peter Drobac, a global health expert at the University of Oxford, who did not work on the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The first is the cost,” Drobac said. “So this vaccine is priced at one-fifth to one-tenth the cost that Pfizer and Moderna, some of the other top vaccine candidates, are supposedly looking for.”

AstraZeneca has vowed not to profit from the vaccine during the pandemic.

Second, “in 10 countries, it is already being manufactured, including a very important manufacturing partner in India. Therefore, we expect to see a large number of doses available very quickly. And then thirdly, this vaccine only required one type of refrigerator temperature storage, ”Drobac told VOA.

In contrast, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Many health systems in developing countries lack refrigeration facilities to store drugs at such cold temperatures.

COVAX

So far, 188 countries have joined an initiative called COVAX, where richer countries invest in the development of various vaccines and the infrastructure necessary to implement them around the world.

“The goal in a perfect world would be for each of the countries that sign up for COVAX to receive enough vaccines for 20% of their population by the end of 2021,” Drobac said. “Now, that is an aspiration of course, not a guarantee. But that would allow each country to at least start covering the most vulnerable, frontline, etc. workers. “

The human rights organization Amnesty International praised the University of Oxford.

“However, much more needs to be done to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can benefit from these life-saving products, and without further action, the supply of vaccines for low-income countries will remain dangerously low,” Amnesty said in a statement Monday.

Regulators may grant emergency approval to major vaccine candidates in the coming weeks, raising hope that the world is on the brink of a breakthrough in fighting the pandemic.

Meanwhile, doctors say it is vital that people follow steps to suppress transmission of the virus.

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