The vaccine, developed by the UK’s AstraZeneca and Oxford University to prevent coronavirus, has been shown to be safe for the human body and can boost immunity, according to the first study results.
The early-stage trial, which involved 1,077 people, has found that the vaccine trains the immune system to produce antibodies and white blood cells in the body, which are able to fight against coronavirus.
This vaccine is being described as a promising discovery. However, it is not yet time to say whether it will be able to provide full protection. Larger trials are underway.
The co-author of the Oxford University study, Professor Sarah Gilbert, described the findings as promising but said there “is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The United Kingdom has already ordered 100 million of the vaccine.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said that the results were “very positive” as he congratulated the team of scientists working on the vaccine.
On Twitter, he said, “There are no guarantees, we’re not there yet & further trials will be necessary – but this is an important step in the right direction”.
In research published on Monday in the journal Lancet, scientists said the vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55 – provoking a T-cell response within 14 days of vaccination and antibody response after 28 days.
More trials will need to be conducted to establish how long these cells last for within the body. It is also unclear whether the vaccine can prevent people from becoming ill or lessen the symptoms of COVID-19.
Researchers said that the vaccine caused minor side effects more frequently than a control group, yet some of these could be reduced by taking paracetamol, with no serious unfavourable events from the vaccine.
The data of the first trial included in the paper covered the first 56 days of the trial and is ongoing.
Phase two and three trials assessing evaluating the vaccine’s effectiveness – including participants in South Africa, Brazil and the US, where infection rates are still high – are already in progress.
“As well as continuing to test our vaccine in phase three trials, we need to learn more about the virus – for example, we still do not know how strong an immune response we need to provoke to effectively protect against Sars-CoV-2 infection,” added Professor Gilbert.
Besides, more research is needed to confirm the findings in different groups of people – including older age groups, individuals with other health conditions, and in ethnically and geographically diverse populations.
AstraZeneca has said it will not seek to profit from the vaccine during the pandemic.
Professor Gilbert said, “If our vaccine is effective, it is a promising option as these types of vaccine can be manufactured at large scale”.
“A successful vaccine against Sars-CoV-2 could be used to prevent infection, disease and death in the whole population, with high-risk populations such as hospital workers and older adults prioritised to receive vaccination.”
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said that the update on the vaccine was “very encouraging news”.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is among the leading candidates currently being developed, with about a dozen others in the early phases of human testing or ready to begin, mostly in China, the US and Europe.
Researchers said that the vaccine should confer protection for a minimum of six months, and reduce onward transmission of the virus to contacts.