Story at a glance
- The COVID-19 vaccine developed jointly by Oxford University and AstraZeneca recorded a 79 percent efficacy rate in clinical trials.
- President Biden pledged several million vaccine doses to Canada and Mexico.
Pharmaceutical company and COVID-19 vaccine developer AstraZeneca released new clinical trial data on Monday, showing their vaccine candidate to have a 79 percent efficacy rate at preventing a symptomatic COVID-19 infection.
Further analysis suggests that the drug, called AZD1222, was also 100 percent effective at preventing a severe COVID-19 infection that resulted in hospitalization.
“These findings reconfirm previous results observed in AZD1222 trials across all adult populations but it’s exciting to see similar efficacy results in people over 65 for the first time,” said Ann Falsey, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and co-lead principal investigator for the trial. “This analysis validates the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a much-needed additional vaccination option, offering confidence that adults of all ages can benefit from protection against the virus.”
AZD1222 was developed by sourcing a virus vector from a weakened common cold virus and introducing COVID-19 generic material into the drug.
More than 32,000 volunteers were included in the company’s Phase 3 clinical trials, which utilized a placebo as the control.
Of the volunteers, 141 patients were diagnosed with a symptomatic infection.
The press release reports that AZD1222 showed consistent efficacy across all racial and gender demographics and had particular success in preventing infection among participants 65 years or older — one of the most vulnerable demographics.
In terms of the specific demographics of the study volunteers, 79 percent were white, 8 percent were Black, 4 percent were Native American and 4 percent Asian, and 22 percent of participants were Hispanic.
Notably, following restricted usage among some European countries due to reports of rare blood clots occurring following vaccination, company officials said they screened their volunteers carefully for thrombotic events. No blood clots among volunteers were reported.
This leads to the company confirming that they will formally submit AZD1222 for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Similarly to other approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, AZD1222 requires two doses administered within four weeks of each other.
Some data suggests that extending the interval between both vaccinations, from four to roughly 12 weeks, could increase the efficacy of the first inoculation.
The vaccine can be stored at temperatures ranging from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius — or 34 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit —another similarity to the FDA-approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Co-developed by Oxford University, the vaccine was one of the federally funded candidates within former President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed.
Last week, President Biden confirmed that the U.S. gave additional doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to Mexico and Canada.
"This action will allow our neighbors to meet a critical vaccination need in their countries, providing more protection immediately across the North American continent," Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus coordinator, told reporters.
The next step for AZD1222 is to secure emergency use authorization from FDA regulators, thereby releasing it for public use.