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Adar Poonawalla, Serum Institute of India chief executive officer
Adar Poonawalla, Serum Institute of India chief executive officer

'Some good news': Serum CEO on trials suggesting Oxford vaccine works for all ages

British drug maker AstraZeneca said that its vaccine produces an immune response in both young and old adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus

Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla on Monday expressed "some preliminary good news" on efficacy of the early covid vaccines, particularly the Oxford vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca Plc after a Bloomberg article published that the Oxford covid vaccine "has produced a robust immune response in older adults and the elderly, those at highest risk of severe illness."

"A lot of people were wondering and asking the question, will these early vaccines be effective for the elderly and most vulnerable, here is some preliminary good news," tweeted Poonawalla while sharing the Bloomberg article.

British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc on Monday said that its vaccine produces an immune response in both young and old adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus.

The experimental vaccine developed in collaboration with Oxford University also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly, AstraZeneca Plc, added.

A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people.

"It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher," an AstraZeneca spokesman said, reported Reuters.

"The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222," the spokesman said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech's candidate, as the world tries to plot a path out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news that older people get an immune response from the vaccine is positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are those most at risk of dying from the virus.

If it works, a vaccine would allow the world to return to some measure of normality after the tumult of the pandemic.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a vaccine was not yet ready but he was preparing logistics for a possible roll out mostly in the first half of 2021.

Asked if some people could receive a vaccine this year he told the BBC: "I don't rule that out but that is not my central expectation."

"The programme is progressing well, (but) we're not there yet," Hancock said.

Work began on the Oxford vaccine in January. Called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the viral vector vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees.

Staff at a London hospital trust have been told to be ready to receive the first batches of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, The Sun newspaper reported on Monday.

Meanwhile, vaccine development in India is also showing progress. India may get a COVID-19 vaccine by March, 2021, revealed Dr Suresh Jadhav, executive director, Serum Institute of India. “India may get COVID-19 vaccine by March 2021 provided the regulators signal with the processes fast as multiple manufacturers are working on it," Dr Jadhav said at the India Vaccine Accessibility e-Summit organised by HEAL Foundation in association with ICCIDD.

Dubbed as AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the vaccine is are combinant viral vector vaccine. It uses a weakened version of a chimpanzee common coldvirus that encodes instructions for making proteins from the novel coronavirus to generate an immune response and prevent infection. The vaccine is likely to provide protection for about a year, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said in June. According to a report published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, the COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55.

With agency inputs

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