AZD1222 -Oxford Covid-19 vaccine’s first human trial shows promise, more phases underway

The vaccine called AZD1222, developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and licensed to the multinational pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, has shown promise during its first human trial. The next phase of the clinical trials of the experimental vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca against the coronavirus disease will see if the immune response seen in the early stages protects against Covid-19.

Vaccine testing is a four-stage process: animal testing,  phase I clinical testing on a small human study group  to determine its safety and the immune response it provokes, expanded safety trials in phase II  (this is where the British vaccine has shown success), and phase III testing would on thousands of people to confirm efficacy.  Currently, 140 vaccine candidates are in the pre-clinical trial stage and 23 have entered the clinical evaluation stage, according to the World Health Organisation. 

According to trial results published in The Lancet medical journal, the Covid-19 vaccine prompted no serious side effects and elicited antibody and T-cell immune responses with the strongest response seen in people who received two doses.

“The global programme is made up of a Phase III trial in the US enrolling 30,000 patients, a paediatric study, as well as Phase III trials in low-to-middle income countries including Brazil and South Africa which are already underway,” the university has said in a release.

Late-stage trials are underway in Brazil and South Africa and are due to start in the United States, where prevalence is higher. Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the university, had said earlier 8,000 volunteers had been enrolled for the Phase III of its trial into the vaccine.

The project has started Phase III of the human trials to assess how the vaccine works in a large number of people over the age of 18, and how well the vaccine works to prevent people from becoming infected and unwell with Covid-19. Researchers will also confirm their findings in different groups of people, those with other health conditions and in ethnically and geographically diverse populations.

It will take at least a year to determine conclusively if the vaccine offers long-term protection according to the Phase 1 trial report. Scientific ethics dictate that people cannot be deliberately exposed to a virus and researchers will instead monitor volunteers to see if they picked up an infection and how their body reacts.

AstraZeneca has signed agreements with governments around the world to supply the vaccine should it prove effective and gain regulatory approval.

The company has put it into large-scale, late-stage trials to test its efficacy. It has signed deals to produce and supply over 2 billion doses of the shot, with 300 million doses earmarked for the US.

Since the Covid-19 vaccine has been developed by a United Kingdom-funded university, UK will have intellectual property rights. Other countries such as India will need to enter into commercial deals or understanding via foundations such as Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).

AstraZeneca also entered a deal with Pune-based Serum Institute of India to supply one billion doses for low-and-middle-Income countries, with first 400 million nicely before the end of 2020.

The World Health Organization’s chief scientist has described the Oxford vaccine as the leading candidate in a global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 people.