Clinical trials of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine has shown that it is up to 90 per cent effective at preventing infection and can be stored cheaply in a fridge. President of AstraZeneca, Tom Keith-Roach, said yesterday that on top of the four million doses on standby for the UK, a further 15million could be ready to roll out by the end of next month. They will be given to healthcare workers and the elderly first, subject to approval by regulators. The vaccine is expected to cost just £2 per dose and can be stored in ordinary equipment, unlike other jabs made by Pfizer and Moderna that showed similarly promising results last week but need to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures using expensive equipment. It’s also a fraction of the price, with Pfizer’s costing around £15 per dose and Moderna’s priced at about £26 a shot. Oxford’s trials found the jab has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. Efficacy drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart. More than 24,000 volunteers were involved in Oxford’s phase three trials in the UK and Brazil, half of whom were given the vaccine and the rest were given a fake jab. There were only 30 cases of Covid-19 in people given the vaccine compared to 101 in the placebo group. None of the participants who took the vaccine fell seriously ill.
The result also showed lower levels of asymptomatic infection in the smaller dose group which ‘means we might be able to halt the virus in its tracks,’ according to Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. He said today was ‘a very exciting day’ and claimed his team’s jab would play a key part ‘in getting the world back to normal’. Health Secretary Matt Hancock also hailed the results this morning, saying millions of doses will be ready to go by the end of December. He told the BBC: ‘It’s really encouraging news… nobody who took it ended up in hospital or had serious conditions. We hope to be able to start vaccinating next month. The bulk of the vaccine roll out programme will be in January, February, March. And we hope that sometime after Easter things will be able to start to get back to normal.’ Oxford’s jab is viewed as Britain’s best chance of mass-inoculation of the population by the end of spring because Boris Johnson has pre-ordered 100million doses, enough to vaccinate 50million people. The UK already has 4million ready to go as soon as the jab is approved, which could see 2million people inoculated before the end of 2020. Results from Oxford’s trials will be sent to the British drug regulator, the MHRA, so it can assess the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness, and that it is manufactured to high standard. The MHRA has been doing a ‘rolling review’ of the vaccine and could, as a result, complete the approval process within a matter of days of receiving the data. The Prime Minister said this morning: ‘Incredibly exciting news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials. There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results.’ The London stock market edged up today following news of the breakthrough vaccine and as the City awaits Mr Johnson’s plans for a strengthened three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions to replace the national lockdown in England. The FTSE 100 index of Britain’s leading firms was up by 0.49 per cent or 31 points at 6,382 in early trading this morning.