LONDON – The COVID-19 vaccine, developed by British drug group AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, has achieved a ‘winning formula’ for efficacy, the company’s chief executive said on Sunday.
The vaccine, currently being evaluated by Britain’s independent drug regulator, offers ‘100 per cent protection’ against serious COVID disease requiring hospitalization, Pascal Soriot told the Sunday Times in an interview.
He added that he believes trials will show that his company has achieved a vaccine efficiency of Pfizer-BioNTech at 95 percent and Moderna at 94.5 percent.
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“We think we have determined the winning formula and how to get effectiveness that is there after two doses in everyone else,” the CEO said, only saying that the data would be published at some point. ‘
The British government announced on 23 December that the developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had submitted their data to the Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Approval is expected to be granted on Monday to roll out the shot, reports The Sunday Telegraph.
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was the first coronavirus shot approved by the UK independent drug regulator, and has been given to 600,000 of the country’s most vulnerable people since last month.
In earlier trials, different results were shown in the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca shot. The vaccine initially showed an average of 70 percent efficacy, but the level jumped to 90 percent, depending on the dose.
‘Storm’ over data
Behind this average figure from large-scale trials in the UK and Brazil was an effectiveness of 62% for those vaccinated with two full doses of the shot.
However, for volunteers who first received half a dose and then a full dose one month later, the vaccine is 90% effective.
Soriot said he was “surprised” by the initial findings. “We would have preferred a simpler set of results,” he added.
The lack of clarity and transparency about the difference in the results has been widely criticized. Soriot said he did not expect the setback that followed.
“We assumed people would be a little disappointed, that’s for sure,” he said. “But we did not expect that storm.”
Great hope has been laid on the AstraZeneca shot, originally based on an attenuated version of a chimpanzee virus, due to the low cost.
The AstraZeneca vaccine also enjoys a logistical advantage over the Pfizer-BioNTech alternative, as it can be stored, transported and handled for at least six months during normal cooling conditions of two to eight degrees Celsius (36-46 Fahrenheit).
This is far from the -70C required for the Pfizer / BioNTech offering, and it could allow the use of the existing refrigeration cabinet to save costs.
‘Light at the end of the tunnel’
In a position of trust for the home-grown vaccine, most of Britain’s requirements are expected to be met by the shot.
The government has ordered 100 million doses, and by the end of March, 40 million doses would be available.
British officials will hope that trust is rewarded, not least because the country with more than 70,000 deaths was one of the countries most affected by the pandemic.
The past week has seen an increase in cases nationwide, particularly in the south-east of England, blaming a new type of virus that is believed to be more contagious, first identified in the UK.
According to one British study, the strain is 50 to 74 percent more contagious.
In an effort to curb the spread of the disease, millions across Britain have been placed under stricter restrictions that went into effect on 26 December.
Dozens of countries have also imposed travel restrictions on the UK to stop the spread of the new strain.
Finance Minister Rishi Sunak wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper that it has been a difficult year for everyone in this country. ‘
However, he added that “the early deployment of vaccines – and the incredible work of our scientists and NHS – means we can now see light at the end of the tunnel.”
The British medicine manufacturer made nearly 200 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine before the end of the year, and by the end of March next year, more than 700 million worldwide.