A coronavirus vaccine developed by drug firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University has shown 70 per cent effectiveness in trials involved 23,000 people, they said in a statement on Monday.
The announcement comes after other trials of drugs developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna announced effectiveness above 90 per cent.
The results ranged between 62 and 90 per cent efficacy depending on the vaccine dosage, according to Monday’s statement.
The United States hopes to begin coronavirus vaccinations in early December, a top government health official said Sunday, the latest positive news to emerge even as cases surge across the worst-hit nation and elsewhere around the globe.
The beginning of vaccinations could be a crucial shift in the battle against a virus that has claimed more than 1.4 million lives worldwide, including 255,000 just in the US, since emerging from China late last year.
Europe’s medicines regulator said Monday that it could approve the first coronavirus vaccines late this year or early next, as it evaluates the most promising candidates.
The clarification came after EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said last week that the watchdog could give the green light for vaccines tested by Pfizer-BioNTech and by Moderna before the end of December.
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said his firm’s vaccine would still be highly effective and would have an ‘immediate impact’.
The firm said it would look to develop up to three billion doses of the vaccine in 2021 if it passes the remaining regulatory hurdles.
While the drug showed 90 per cent when given as a half-dose followed by a full-dose at least one month apart, the result was 62 per cent when given as two full doses over the same time period.
‘The combined analysis... resulted in an average efficacy of 70 per cent,’ it said.
It said the vaccine could be stored, transported and handled ‘at normal refrigerated conditions’ of between two and eight degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months.
Encouraging results from vaccine trials have bolstered hopes for an end to the pandemic, as nations reimpose restrictions and lockdowns that slowed the spread earlier this year but turned lives and economies upside down across the globe.
Two leading vaccine candidates — one by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech and another by US firm Moderna — have been shown to be 95 per cent effective in trials, and Pfizer has already applied for emergency use approval from US health authorities.
‘Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours of approval’ by the US Food and Drug Administration, Moncef Slaoui, head of the US government virus vaccine effort, told CNN, pointing to possible dates of December 11-12.
‘It is difficult to predict timelines for the authorisation of vaccines precisely at this stage, as the data are still coming in and the rolling reviews are currently ongoing,’ the European Medicines Agency said in an emailed statement to AFP.
‘Depending on how the evaluation progresses, EMA could indeed be in a position to conclude evaluation for the most advanced candidates towards the end of this year or the beginning of next.’
The Amsterdam-based EMA is carrying out ‘rolling reviews’ designed to speed up vaccine approval times on three candidates: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford University-AstraZeneca.
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