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The Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has efficacy of 90% in a small group who got a half-dose first, but only 62% in the majority, full trial data newly published in the Lancet has confirmed.
The results may create a quandary for regulatory bodies, which will have to decide on how the vaccine should be used if they approve it.
Oxford University and its partner, AstraZeneca, are seeking regulatory approval for their much-anticipated vaccine on the basis that it has 70% efficacy after pooling the results from trials in the UK and Brazil.
But it is the individual regulatory bodies in the UK, Europe and the US that will have to decide which dosing regimen is appropriate if they give it the go-ahead.
When and how will I be able to get a Covid vaccine in the UK?
Now that the UK has authorised the first Covid vaccine, who will get it first?
The government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says its priority is to prevent Covid-related deaths and protect health and social care staff and systems.
Elderly care home residents and their carers are first on the JCVI’s list because their risk of exposure to the virus is higher and because the risk of death closely correlates with older age. They are followed in priority by anyone else over 80 and frontline health and social care workers.
Even so, for pragmatic reasons NHS staff are likely to be the first group to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. This is because the vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, which can be achieved more easily by using hospital facilities
Are there enough doses to reach all the priority groups?
Together, care home residents, their carers and the over-80s make up nearly 6 million people, and frontline NHS staff a further 736,685. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has said he expects 10m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be available this year, so if this is the only vaccine authorised, everyone else would have to wait until further doses become available next year.
Where will I go for the vaccine?
Covid-19 vaccines are expected to be delivered at three types of venue: NHS trust “vaccine hubs” at hospital sites; mass vaccination centres, which are in the process of being set up at places such as football stadiums, conference buildings and racecourses – these are expected to vaccinate up to 5,000 people a day; and at GP surgeries and pharmacies. GPs can also visit care home residents and housebound patients at home without them needing to travel.
How far apart will the two doses be administered, and will I protected after the first?
While there is some evidence to indicate high levels of short-term protection from a single dose of vaccine, a two-dose schedule is what has been approved by the MHRA.
The second dose will need to be delivered at least 21 days after the first, and both will be injected into the deltoid muscle – the thick triangular muscle we use to raise each arm.
For the Pfizer vaccine, its efficacy rate was calculated seven days after the second shot. It is likely that people will have some protection before this, but this is how long it will take for full protection to kick in. We will learn more about the extent of protection and how long it lasts as data from ongoing clinical trials comes in.
Can I pay to get the vaccine privately?
Unlikely. England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, has said he believes Covid-19 vaccines should be delivered according to clinical priority rather than allowing people to jump the queue if they can afford it.
Will I be able to choose which vaccine I have?
Also unlikely, at least in the short to medium term. Assuming more than one vaccine is approved, the priority will be distributing any available doses to the people who need it as quickly as possible.
“Our job as scientists is to generate the data and make that publicly available for people to scrutinise and scientists to scrutinise and also now for the regulators and policymakers to scrutinise. These decisions are not for us to make,” said Prof Andrew Pollard of Oxford University, chief investigator on the trials.
It is possible the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in the UK, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US will come to different conclusions.
The FDA is unlikely to approve the vaccine as quickly as the UK and Europe. It has also expressed concerns about the limited ethnicity data in the trials and the absence of older people at highest risk, as most participants were under 55. A large trial in which 20% are older people and there is greater ethnic representation is ongoing in the US.
“We will be submitting the data to the FDA, but our best assumption is that we will need the study readout from the US before we are likely to get approval in the US,” said Mene Pangalos, executive vice-president of biopharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca.
Publication of the full data from the trials in the Lancet medical journal will be welcomed around the world.
Oxford AstraZeneca’s is seen as the most globally important vaccine because it is easy to manufacture and distribute at fridge temperature, and the cost is low. AstraZeneca has undertaken to manufacture 3bn doses and is part of Covax, the UN programme to distribute vaccines to all countries in the world.
Speaking as the first people in the UK were given the first vaccine to be approved, from Pfizer/BioNTech, Pascal Soriot, the chief executive officer of AstraZeneca, said it was important to have several. “In fact, if you add the capacity, at least the announced capacity, of Pfizer, Moderna and ours, there is still not enough to vaccinate sufficient number of people around the world,” said Soriot.
“We need all vaccines. So that’s really an important point to keep in mind when people start comparing data across various studies. We need all this capacity, we need all these vaccines, to help dealing with the pandemic as quickly as we can.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine is hoped and expected to be the mainstay of the UK vaccination programme. The UK has ordered 100m doses; 4m are already in the country.
The researchers say they agreed with the regulator to pool the results from the different dosing trials after one small sub-group was inadvertently given a low starting dose. The expectation was that two full doses would work best.
The efficacy data are based on 11,636 volunteers across the UK and Brazil. There were just 2,741 people in the sub-group who received a low first dose, half of whom received the vaccine and half a placebo. But efficacy in that group was 90% compared with 62% among the rest.
But the researchers say it makes sense to pool the results. “There is sufficient consistency to justify the proposal for pooled analysis of data, which will provide greater precision for both efficacy and safety outcomes than can be achieved in individual studies and provides a broader understanding of the use of the vaccine in different populations,” they write.
The Lancet publication includes full safety data from volunteers in those two countries and also South Africa, where efficacy results are not yet available. Of a total of over 23,000 trial volunteers, only three from 175 reported serious adverse events were possibly related to the vaccine.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has 70% efficacy, full trial data shows | Coronavirus