GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca announced they are developing next-generation COVID-19 vaccines to tackle new variants.
Oxford University and AztraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has similar efficacy against the British coronavirus variant as it does to the previously circulating variants, Oxford researchers have said.
The university, which developed the jab with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm, said an ongoing assessment of its effectiveness showed that it has “similar efficacy” to other coronavirus strains, according to a preliminary trial.
“Data from our trials … in the United Kingdom indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the novel variant,” said Andrew Pollard, co-chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial.
The analysis, which relied on samples taken between October and mid-January, also indicated the shot reduces “duration of shedding and viral load”, which may translate into reduced virus transmission, the university said.
The preliminary findings, which still need to be peer reviewed, are the first to report on the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against new variants, it noted.
The variant first identified in Kent, southern England, is more easily transmissible, prompting many countries to restrict travel to the UK.
It also led to a spike in infections that forced a new national lockdown in England last month.
That lockdown came as the UK started rolling out the AstraZeneca vaccine. More than 10 million people have received a first dose of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer’s shot.
Britain had said that it believed the vaccines were effective against variants that are circulating in the UK.
Sarah Gilbert, co-developer of the vaccine, said that, although the vaccine had efficacy against the UK variant, it might need to be adapted for a future variant.
“We are working with AstraZeneca to optimise the pipeline required for a strain change should one become necessary,” Gilbert said.