Oxford moving to next phases in coronavirus vaccine trials

Oxford moving to next phases in coronavirus vaccine trials
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Oxford University researchers on Friday announced they are beginning the next phases of their closely-watched clinical trials on a potential coronavirus vaccine.

Phase one of the trial began in April, and researchers are now moving into phases two and three.

The phase two trial will test the vaccine in different age groups that were not tested in the first phase, and the phase three trial will measure how well the vaccine works in preventing infection in a large number of participants.

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The Oxford effort is one of the farthest along and most promising potential coronavirus vaccines. Researchers have said the first doses could be ready as soon as this fall if the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective in these trials.

Researchers have begun recruiting volunteers for the next phase and are looking to enroll up to 10,260 adults and children, the university said in a press release. 

“The clinical studies are progressing very well and we are now initiating studies to evaluate how well the vaccine induces immune responses in older adults, and to test whether it can provide protection in the wider population,” Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said in a statement.

Those involved in the effort noted how quickly the trials are moving, as researchers seek to develop a vaccine far faster than has ever been done before.

The phase three trial needs to compare the level of coronavirus infection in the group of volunteers who got the real vaccine versus the control group that did not get the real coronavirus vaccine.

For that comparison to be made, some members of the control group need to get infected. How long that takes depends on how quickly the virus is circulating.

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“How quickly we reach the numbers required will depend on the levels of virus transmission in the community,” the university said in a press release. “If transmission remains high, we may get enough data in a couple of months to see if the vaccine works, but if transmission levels drop, this could take up to 6 months.”

Oxford is partnering with the drug company AstraZeneca. The Trump administration announced Thursday that it is providing up to $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca for clinical trials and manufacturing of this vaccine in the United States as well.

Another leading vaccine effort, from the biotech company Moderna, announced some positive early results from a phase one trial earlier this week.