Oxford COVID-19 vaccine shows positive immune response in elderly

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The mid-stage trial results of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Oxford University shows a strong immune response in older people.

The data from the trial was reported last month but now it has published a complete version in The Lancet medical journal. The results show that people aged above 70, who are considered in the higher risk category, more prone to illness and death from COVID-19 can improve their immunity to the pandemic, which gives a positive sign that it may protect some of those most vulnerable to the disease.

“The robust antibody and T-cell responses were seen in older people in our study are encouraging,” said Maheshi Ramasamy, a consultant and a co-lead investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group.

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The people at high risk of COVID-19 are those with some existing health conditions and older adults. And the study now has shown that this vulnerable category can be protected with the vaccine, though further research is needed to ensure its efficacy.

Currently, AstraZeneca is conducting Phase 3 trials to confirm the findings and to understand if the vaccine can protect against infection with SARS-CoV-2 in a wide range of people, including those with some existing health conditions. According to the Lancet report, the primary analysis of the late-stage trials can be expected by Christmas.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate, called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is one among the prominent developers of shots in the efforts to protect against infection with the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2.

But recently the rival drug makers Pfizer Inc, BioNTech and Moderna Inc have raced ahead by releasing their late-stage COVID-19 vaccine trial data that shows more than 90 percent efficacy.

Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots, both of which use a new technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA), the AstraZeneca experimental shot is a viral vector vaccine made from an altered version of a common cold virus found in chimpanzees.

As per the Lancet report, the Phase 2 vaccine trials resulted in 560 healthy volunteers out of which 160 aged between 18-55 years, 160 aged between 56-69 years and 240 people aged 70 or above.

During the trials, the volunteers were given two doses of the shots or a placebo and no serious side effects were reported, the researchers added.

As it gets closer to phase 3 trials, AstraZeneca has entered into several supplies and manufacturing deals with private companies as well as governments around the world.

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