British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said yesterday they will seek regulatory approval for their coronavirus vaccine after “effective” trials, in the latest potential boost to curbing the global outbreak.
The partners announced that while the vaccine showed an average of 70% effectiveness, the level jumped to 90% depending on the dosage.
Manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna last week said trials of their vaccines showed effectiveness above 90% in what was hailed as a breakthrough in stopping the spread of the virus. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the announcement “incredibly exciting”.
“There are still further safety checks ahead but these are fantastic results,” he said.
Despite varying outcomes, AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot insisted his firm’s vaccine would have an “immediate impact”.
“AstraZeneca will now immediately prepare regulatory submission of the data to authorities around the world that have a framework in place for conditional or early approval,” he said.
The firm said it would look to develop up to three billion doses of the vaccine in 2021 after passing regulatory hurdles.
Last week, the Prayut Chan-o-cha cabinet gave the Public Health Ministry the permission to pay six billion baht to reserve 26 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
Government spokesman, Anucha Burapachaisri, said the government decided to buy the vaccines from AstraZeneca, since the Public Health Ministry had already signed an agreement with the company to jointly produce the vaccine in Thailand.
In order to ensure the success of the vaccination drive, the government has instructed the National Vaccine
Institute to procure enough vaccine to cover at least 20% of the population, or about 13 million.
Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, said the reservation will ensure Thailand will have access to the vaccine as soon as it receives safety approval in the United Kingdom.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine has to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (°C), much colder than temperatures of a standard freezer.
That has prompted questions about distribution and storage, as well as higher costs, particularly for lower-income countries. But the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine could be stored, transported and handled “at normal refrigerated conditions” of between 2-8°C for at least six months.
The vaccine showed 90% efficacy when given as a half-dose followed by a full-dose at least one month apart. The result was 62% as two full doses in the same period.
“We think that by giving a smaller first dose that we’re priming the immune system differently, we’re setting it up better to respond,” Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, said.