AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shows promise with the elderly

Britain’s Oxford University and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has produced a strong immune response among older people – and researchers expect to release late-stage trial results by Christmas, according to a report.

The data published in The Lancet medical journal Thursday suggest that people over 70 who are at higher risk of serious illness and death from the deadly bug could build a strong immunity, Reuters reported.

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

“We hope that this means our vaccine will help to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society, but further research will be needed before we can be sure,” he added.

Researchers said Phase 3 trials are ongoing to confirm the findings and to test whether the shot protects against infection in a broad range of people, including those with underlying medical conditions.

Results should be known by Christmas, Oxford Vaccine Group director Andrew Pollard said, adding that it was too early to know whether and how well the inoculation works in preventing the disease.

“We’re still waiting to get to the point where we can do the analysis to just work out how well the vaccine can protect people, and we’re getting ever closer to that,” he told journalists.

“We are optimistic that we’ll be able to do that before Christmas, and obviously we’ll share that with you as soon as we can at that point,” Pollard added.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate had been among the front-runners in global efforts to develop effective vaccines against COVID-19.

In the past few days, rival drugmakers Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have released data from late-stage trials that shows more than 90 percent efficacy.

“We’re not in a rush. We and it’s not a competition with the other developers,” Pollard said, adding that AstraZeneca would release headline efficacy data before it was published in an academic journal.

Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which use new technology known as messenger RNA, AstraZeneca’s is a viral vector shot made from a weakened version of a common cold virus.

The trial reported in The Lancet involved 560 healthy volunteers, with 160 aged 18-55, 160 aged 56-69 and 240 aged 70 or over, according to Reuters.

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