A COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca provoked “robust immune responses” in trial participants, the company said Monday, citing data published in The Lancet.
“We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,” Dr. Adrian Hill, director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, told the AP. Trials showed that the vaccine, which was developed using the virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees, triggers both the production of antibodies, which can block infection, and a T-cell response, which helps the body beat the virus. “What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system,” Hill said.
In a tweet Monday, the Department of Health and Social Care in the U.K. called the vaccine a “major breakthrough.”
The study involved 1,077 participants from 18 to 55 years old, a younger cohort than those who will most need a working coronavirus vaccine. Half received the vaccine, which caused minor side effects, including fever, chills, and muscle pain. The T-cell response peaked at 14 days after the vaccine was administered, and antibody levels peaked 28 days out.
The results show that the vaccine is safe and that it triggers promising responses, but it doesn’t prove that it can prevent infection or trigger long-term immunity. Larger trials to evaluate the vaccine’s effectiveness are currently underway in the U.K. and South Africa. Another is expected to soon start in the U.S. with roughly 30,000 participants.
Following the results of the study, Professor Andrew Pollard, one of its co-authors and the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, sounded confident about the vaccine’s potential. “The immune responses observed following vaccination are in line with what we expect will be associated with protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” he said in a press release.
The U.K. has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, and AstraZeneca has suggested that the vaccine may be available by September, according to the BBC. The vaccine is one of many in development in the global race against the coronavirus. Others include the shot Moderna and the U.S. government have partnered to produce. Data published last week showed that the vaccine successfully produced antibodies in patients.
As vaccine development progresses, researchers are also racing to development treatments against the coronavirus and Monday delivered promising news on that front, too. Synairgen, the British drugmaker that has developed an inhalable medication for COVID-19 patients, showed in a study that “patients who were given the treatment had a 79% lower risk of developing severe forms of the disease caused by the new coronavirus or possible death, compared to those on a placebo,” according to Reuters. Some experts have cautioned that more information about the drug is needed though before it is considered a must-use in clinical settings.