AstraZeneca vaccine up to 90% effective in trials, can be stored under ‘normal refrigerated conditions’

astrazeneca vaccine university of oxford researchers
Photo via Michael D. Beckwith/Flickr (Public Domain)

There’s more good news on the coronavirus vaccine front, with AstraZeneca announcing on Nov. 23 that its vaccine is showing up to 90% effectiveness in trials. While it’s not quite reaching the high marks of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines announced earlier in November, the AstraZeneca vaccine has two distinct advantages: It can be stored under “normal refrigerated conditions” of 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 8 degrees Celsius), and it will be offered at a lower cost than the other two vaccines previously announced.

According to the Associated Press, trials in the U.K. and Brazil showed an average efficacy rate of 70% for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Ninety percent effectiveness was achieved for those who received an initial half-dose and a full dose at least one month later, whereas efficacy rates were 62% for those who received two full doses a month apart. Early data from both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines showed them to be at least 94% effective.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by University of Oxford researchers, uses a weakened version of a common cold virus combined with genetic material for the characteristic COVID-19 spike protein. The spike protein primes the immune system to combat the virus if it later infects the body.

None of the participants receiving the vaccine developed severe cases or required hospitalization, the Washington Post noted. AstraZeneca also stated no “serious safety events” were reported in connection with the vaccine, which typically was “well-tolerated” by all participants.

The Washington Post story also noted that AstraZeneca is already at work manufacturing the virus, with four million doses expected to be ready in December and 40 million to be delivered in the first three months of 2021. Production could expand to as many as 200 million doses a month by the second quarter of 2021, relying on a network involving partners in Brazil, India, Russia, and the U.S.

The research team asserted the vaccine would save many lives, especially using the half-dose followed by the full-dose schedule. One team member theorized that the first half-dose might be sufficiently priming the immune system while the second full-dose encourages the body to defend against illness.

The AP report noted AstraZeneca has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations, pricing it at about $2.50 a dose. The British company has also pledged it won’t make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic.

Pfizer’s vaccine, by comparison, costs about $20 a dose, while Moderna’s ranges from $15-$25, based on agreements those companies have forged with U.S. government agencies.

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Sources: Associated Press, Washington Post

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