According to two people familiar with the discovery, the vaccine, considered the leader in the race to protect the world’s population from Covid-19, has led to a strong immune response in the elderly, the group most at risk for the disease.
The discovery that the vaccine, developed by Oxford University in collaboration with AstraZeneca, elicits protective antibodies and T cells in older age groups encourages researchers as they seek evidence that they will save those later in life from serious illness or death from the virus.
Age has emerged as a major risk factor for a severe attack of Covid-1
People familiar with the results of so-called blood immunogenicity tests performed on a subset of older participants say echo data published in July show that the vaccine generates “stable immune responses” in a group of healthy adults between the ages of 18 and and 55 years.
Earlier findings showed that the vaccine induced two forms of human immune response – generating antibodies and T cells – for at least 56 days, according to an analysis published in The Lancet.
Positive immunogenicity tests do not guarantee that the vaccine will ultimately be safe and effective in the elderly. This will not be known until the complete sample data for this age group have been analyzed.
However, researchers are encouraged by the latest development, details of which will soon be published in a clinical journal. Oxford University declined to comment.
Jonathan Ball, a professor of virology at the University of Nottingham, said: “If what they have is that the data show that the vaccine generates good laboratory-measured immunity in the age group over 55, and that includes good responses in people who are even older than that, I think that’s a promising sign. ”
He warned, however, that while good immunogenicity data would be encouraging, “ultimately, whether the vaccine protects against serious disease is crucial, and we will only know this from phase 3 studies.”
One person familiar with Whitehall’s thinking suggests that he is optimistic that vaccination of priority groups such as NHS personnel on the Covid-19 front line may be able to begin as early as January.
However, one official implemented this rapid timetable, suggesting that there were still significant uncertainties, including the timing and stability of the results of the Phase 3 trials and whether approval could be obtained from the UK regulator, the Medicines and Health Regulators Agency. products.
Last Thursday, Patrick Valance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, told a press conference on Downing Street that while vaccine development was progressing well, “I remain of the view that the possibility of more widespread use of the vaccine will not be until next spring.” .
The test results are closely monitored around the world.
The U.S. arm of the Oxford / AstraZeneca study was given the green to resume on Friday, having been suspended since Sept. 6 after the participant developed neurological symptoms.
Additional reporting by Jim Picard