AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine effective against variant first identified in UK: study

A vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca held up against the highly transmissible variant first detected in the U.K. and had similar protection when compared to other strains, according to new data.

The variant has been the main driver of coronavirus disease in the U.K. since the middle of December due to rapid spread, Prof. Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, previously told an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The new findings, posted ahead of rigorous peer review in “Preprints with The Lancet” on Thursday, compared the vaccine’s efficacy among other strains.

“Data from our trials of the ChAdOx1 vaccine in the United Kingdom indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus but also protects against the novel variant, B.1.1.7, which caused the surge in disease from the end of 2020 across the UK,” Pollard said in a statement on Friday.

ASTRAZENECA-OXFORD COVID-19 VACCINE DROPS VIRUS TRANSMISSION RATE, SUSTAINS PROTECTION: STUDY

Researchers said the vaccine afforded similar protection against symptomatic disease from the B.1.1.7 strain, at about 75%, compared to efficacy against prior strains at 84%, even though induced antibodies were nine-fold lower against the B.1.1.7 strain. Findings stemmed from over 1,500 nasal/throat swabs taken from 499 trial participants in a Phase I/II study between Oct. 1 to Jan 14. 

“Efficacy of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 against the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2 is similar to the efficacy of the vaccine against other lineages,” reads the study. “Furthermore, vaccination with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 results in a reduction in the duration of shedding and viral load, which may translate into a material impact on transmission of disease.”

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U.K. scientists have estimated that the B.1.1.7. coronavirus strain can spread 50% to 70% more easily from person to person, and there is some data to suggest the variant is more deadly.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has already been approved for use in the U.K., and more than 10 million doses of vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech have been administered across the U.K., according to separate data released Friday.

The  U.K.’s medicine regulator also announced Friday that additional monitoring of coronavirus vaccines reaffirmed their safety and efficacy. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there was a rate of suspected side effects of 3 per 1,000 doses administered from Dec. 9 to Jan. 24.

“This reassuring data has shown that the vast majority of reported side effects are mild and all are in line with most types of vaccine, including the seasonal flu vaccine,” the MHRA said in a statement.

The news follows other recent preliminary findings that the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine not only dropped virus transmission by two-thirds but also improved hospitalization rates and prevented serious disease. Researchers also found spacing out the two doses actually boosted protection against the virus.