London: Imagine a vaccine that is 90% effective at preventing infection, is cheap and can be stored in a common fridge. Oxford University's coronavirus vaccine is all this and more.
Unlike Pfizer and Moderna’s jabs which will cost £26 a shot and can only be afforded by the affluent, Oxford’s vaccine will cost just £2 per dose. Nor does it pose any logistic challenges and has to be stored in ultra-cold temperatures and entail use of expensive equipment.
The findings of the human trials have been equally inspiring: the vaccine has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. Efficacy drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart.
More than 24,000 volunteers were involved in Oxford's phase three trials in the UK and Brazil, half of whom were given the vaccine and the rest were given a fake jab. There were only 30 cases of Covid-19 in people given the vaccine compared to 101 in the placebo group. None of the participants who took the vaccine fell seriously ill.
"These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives,’’ explained Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial.
A beaming UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, "Incredibly exciting news: the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials. There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also expressed excitement and relief at the results from the "home grown" vaccine and said that if everything goes as per plan, the UK can start rolling out the vaccines as early as next month with bulk in early 2021.
Further trials are being conducted in India, the US, Kenya and Japan.
The Oxford vaccine is made from a virus, which is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus), which has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.
Adenovirus vaccines have been researched and used extensively for decades and have a significant benefit in that they are stable, easily manufactured, transported and stored at domestic fridge temperature, meaning the vaccine, once approved, can be easily distributed using existing medical facilities and deployed very rapidly.