A dose of optimism for a COVID-weary world came from Britain on Monday, where researchers announced that a coronavirus vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford showed promising results during a preliminary study.
Results of the study, which included 1,077 people and was carried out in April and May, were published in The Lancet.
“The immune system has two ways of finding and attacking pathogens — antibody and T cell responses,” Oxford professor Andrew Pollard, lead author of the study, said in a statement, CNN reported. “This vaccine is intended to induce both, so it can attack the virus when it’s circulating in the body, as well as attacking infected cells.”
“We hope this means the immune system will remember the virus, so that our vaccine will protect people for an extended period,” he added.
Pollard said the study offered insight into how the vaccine could be the most useful.
“We saw the strongest immune response in the 10 participants who received two doses of the vaccine, indicating that this might be a good strategy for vaccination,” he said in an Oxford University news release.
“The vaccine provoked a T cell response within 14 days of vaccination (white blood cells that can attack cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus), and an antibody response within 28 days (antibodies are able to neutralise the virus so that it cannot infect cells when initially contracted),” the Oxford statement read.
“During the study participants who received the vaccine had detectable neutralising antibodies, which have been suggested by researchers as important for protection, and these responses were strongest after a booster dose, with 100% of participants blood having neutralising activity against the coronavirus.”
But it is too soon to declare victory, Pollard cautioned.
“The key question everyone wants to know is does the vaccine work, does it offer protection … and we’re in a waiting game,” he told the BBC.
Although the study said no dangerous side effects were reported, “70% of people on the trial developed either fever or headache,” the outlet reported.
The drug is one of 23 coronavirus vaccines being tested in clinical trials globally, with another 140 in early development.
The British study comes a week after the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the drug company Moderna announced that its trial of 45 people who took an experimental vaccine induced antibodies in all of them.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection,” Dr. Lisa Jackson of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute, who led the study, told The Associated Press.
“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added to the AP.
The next step in the drug’s development is a 30,000-person study set to begin later this month.
The vaccine requires two doses taken a month apart.
Fauci said the race for a vaccine is not “a race for one winner. Me, I’m cheering every one of them on.”
“We need multiple vaccines. We need vaccines for the world, not only for our own country,” he said.
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