One of the world’s leading Covid-19 experimental vaccines produces an immune response in both young and old adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus.
The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, which is helping manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday.
A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people. The global cases have crossed 43 million.
“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the Covid-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman said. “The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222,” the spokesman said, referring to the vaccine’s technical name.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate.
The news that older people get an immune response is positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are those most at risk of dying from the virus. If it works, a vaccine would allow the world to return to some measure of normality after the tumult of the pandemic.
British health secretary Matt Hancock said a vaccine was not yet ready but he was preparing logistics for a possible roll-out mostly in the first half of 2021.
Asked if some people could receive a vaccine this year he told the BBC: “I don’t rule that out but that is not my central expectation.”
“The programme is progressing well, (but) we’re not there yet,” Hancock said.
Meanwhile, The Sun newspaper reported that staff at George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in London have been told to be ready to receive the first batches of the Oxford vaccine. The hospital was told to prepare for the vaccine from the “week commencing the November 2”, it said.
The newspaper said clinical trials at the hospital have been paused as all resources have been diverted to prepare vaccination of thousands of doctors, nurses and other front-line staff.
Mass testing in Xinjiang
China is testing millions of people in Xinjiang region, with 137 asymptomatic cases detected so far, the highest number of such infections in seven months.
The tests followed the discovery of a cluster linked to a garment factory.
The new cases were found on Sunday during a drive to test 4.75 million people in the Kashgar area triggered by an asymptomatic infection in a 17-year-old female factory worker.
Dire warnings in Europe
France has “lost control of the epidemic,” said Prof Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government, a day after health authorities reported more than 52,000 new cases in the country.
Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly told her party colleagues that Germany is on the verge of losing control of its fight against the virus. With 12,500 cases per week, Belgium’s intensive care units are at risk of being overrun.
Meanwhile, Australia’s second-biggest city Melbourne will exit its coronavirus lockdown after nearly four months, with no new daily cases or deaths recorded.