“Our data suggests that you want to be as close to 12 weeks as possible,” Pangalos said during a press conference for the second dose.
The study has not yet been peer-reviewed and did not address the dosage of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The other vaccine currently used in the UK, Pfizer recommends giving vaccinations every 21 days and has not endorsed the UK government’s decision to increase the time between doses.
However, the Oxford study was eagerly received by British officials, who were pressured to justify their decision to postpone the second dose.
“This reduction in transmission, plus the fact that there are no hospitalizations, the combination is very good news. And it categorically supports the strategy we are pursuing to have a 12 week gap between doses,” said Hancock Sky news.
Some countries, including France, have only approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in people under the age of 65. There isn’t enough evidence to show whether it works in older adults. Belgium has only approved it for people under 55 years of age.
One of the leading researchers on the Oxford Vaccine Project, Dr. Andrew Pollard, however, said “we expect it to be highly effective in older adults” and that more data should be available in the next few weeks.
Pangalos noted that the European Medicines Agency had approved the vaccine for use in anyone over the age of 18.
“How individual countries choose to introduce vaccines ultimately depends on their vaccine stocks,” he said.
The vaccine supply is a sensitive issue in the European Union. It is unfortunate that AstraZeneca has reduced the number of cans the EU is expected to supply in the near future. The company announced last month that it plans to cut initial shipments within the EU from 80 million cans to 31 million cans as the yields of its manufacturing facilities in Europe decline.
Since then, requests have been made to add 9 million additional doses to the 27-nation bloc, whose heads of state and government have been criticized for the slow progress in vaccinating the population.
The UK has the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in Europe, with more than 108,000 deaths, and is in its third national lockdown as authorities try to contain a new, more transmissible variant of the virus, first identified in the south-east of England.
Other variations are also a problem. Public health officials in England are going door-to-door trying to test all adults in eight target communities to prevent a new strain first identified in South Africa from spreading further.
So far, 105 cases of the variant have been identified in the UK, 11 of them in people with no connection to international travel. Scientists say there is no evidence that the South African variant is more serious than the original virus, but it could be more contagious. There is also concern that current vaccines against this variant may be less effective, as they contain a mutation of the virus’s signature spike protein that existing vaccines target.
This is worrying as the UK is trying to vaccinate its own population against the virus. Almost 10 million people have received the first of their two recordings, including the majority of those over 80 and those in nursing homes.
According to Pollard, Oxford scientists believe the AstraZeneca vaccine will continue to offer protection against new variants of COVID-19, although they are still waiting for data on it.
He said that even if the virus adapts, “it doesn’t mean we don’t have protection from serious illnesses.”
“When we have to update the vaccines, it is actually a relatively straightforward process. It only takes a few months and not the tremendous effort everyone has put into doing the very extensive studies over the past year,” he told the BBC.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak