More Data On AstraZeneca’s Covid Vaccine Trials Needed, Say Oxford And WHO Scientists

In order to determine the safety and efficacy of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, there is need for more data from the vaccine trials, said scientists from the University of Oxford and the World Health Organization, after concerns were raised about the vaccine by experts from the United States earlier.

“There’s always a problem in announcing scientific results by press release, and that is that you don’t have all the data out there and people aren’t able to really look and think about the data properly,” Sir John Bell, the Regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said on Friday.

After AstraZeneca announced interim results of its coronavirus vaccine trials on Monday, the company’s shares dipped this week. After combining results from two different dosing regimes, the vaccine candidate was founds to be 70 per cent effective, said the British pharmaceutical giant, which has partnered with Oxford University in developing the Covid-19 vaccine.

An unintentionally lower dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose was administered to one smaller group of people, all under the age of 55. On the other hand two full doses of the vaccine were administered to a larger group of people. Results of the trial showed that the group that received the smaller dose exhibited 90 per cent efficacy while 62 per cent effectiveness was reported for the larger group.

There were concerns about the differing ages between the two groups, said some US experts, including Moncef Slaoui, chief of the White House’s Operation Warp Speed.

In order to examine the lower dosage regime, the company will likely begin a new study, Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said amid those concerns.

“The full data will be published in the medical journal so people can examine it. Taking snippets of data is not a helpful way to make an analysis of what’s actually going on,” Bell said in a television interview.  

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has also been backed by other British government ministers and experts. They have noted that the final say on the vaccine will be given by the regulators as they have more information on the vaccine’s late-stage clinical trials than others.

On Friday, the British regulators were asked by the government to review and assess the vaccine for a temporary supply which means that by the end of the year, the government coud start distributing the vaccine in the country.

However in the United States, the process could take longer because of the concers expressed by experts there. He predicts the U.K. could be “substantially vaccinated” by spring of next year, Bell said in a television interview.

During WHO’s press briefing earlier on Friday, opinions similar to Bell were expressed by Kate O’Brien, director of immunization, vaccines and biologicals at the WHO.

O’Brien said that there’s only a “limited amount that can be said in a press release” and more data – including that on how well the vaccine builds an immune response, is still needed.

“It’s difficult to weigh in on this,” O’Brien said from the WHO’s Geneva headquarters. “From what we understand about the press release, there is certainly something interesting that has been observed, but there are many reasons that could underlie the differences that were observed.”

(Adapted from CNBC.com)

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