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AstraZeneca says COVID-19 'vaccine for the world' can be 90% effective

Coronavirus Nov 23, 2020 11:00AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Vials and medical syringe are seen in front of AstraZeneca logo in this illustration
 
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By Kate Holton, Josephine Mason and Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine could be as much as 90% effective, giving the world's fight against the global pandemic a new weapon, cheaper to make, easier to distribute and faster to scale-up than rivals.

The British drugmaker said it will have as many as 200 million doses by the end of 2020, around four times as many as U.S. competitor Pfizer (NYSE:PFE). Seven hundred million doses could be ready globally as soon as the end of the first quarter of 2021.

"This means we have a vaccine for the world," said Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford University vaccine group that developed the drug.

The vaccine on average prevented 70% of COVID-19 cases in late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil but the success rate rose to 90% if the vaccine was administered as a half dose followed by a full dose. The efficacy was 62% if the full dose was given twice, as it was for most study participants.

No serious safety events were confirmed, the company said.

AstraZeneca's shares fell 4%, on track for their worst daily performance in six-months, as investors perceived the efficacy data as disappointing compared with rivals. Pfizer and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), which reported that their vaccines prevented around 95% of cases, had set the bar for success sky-high.

The AstraZeneca shot does, however, have some advantages over offerings from U.S. rivals.

The drug's cost to governments works out at just a few dollars a shot, a fraction of the price of shots from Pfizer and Moderna, which use a more unconventional technology.

It can also be transported and stored at normal fridge temperatures, which proponents say would make it easier to distribute, especially in poor countries, than Pfizer's, which needs to be shipped and stored at -70C.

The faster roll-out means both rich and poor countries that had been drawing up plans to ration vaccines can distribute them more widely, helping to eventually halt the social and economic disruption of a pandemic that has killed 1.4 million people.

"The bulk of the vaccine rollout 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," said Matt Hancock, health secretary of Britain which has pre-ordered 100 million doses for its 67 million people.

In poor countries, where the logistics of distributing rival vaccines posed a bigger challenge, the effect of a cheaper and easier alternative could be even more pronounced. Zahid Maleque, health minister of Bangladesh, which is buying in 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, called the findings "really good news".

"The big advantage of having the vaccine is that it can be stored, transported and handled at 2-8 degrees Celsius, and we have that storage facility," he said.

The World Health Organization's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan called the results "encouraging" and said the health body looked forward to seeing the data.

"We welcome the efforts of Oxford/AZ to make the vaccine affordable and easy to store, which will be good for countries and people everywhere."

"WE'LL BE A LOT HAPPIER"

Nevertheless, there was criticism of AstraZeneca's findings.

Analysts from SVB Leerink, a healthcare-focused investment bank, said AstraZeneca had not yet disclosed enough information about safety events that had forced it to temporarily put a study on hold in the United States.

Leerink noted that only a small number of people had received the smaller first dose. Of 131 cases of COVID-19 in the study, researchers did not say how many had received the smaller initial dose to form the basis for their 90% efficacy finding.

Leerink said it was unlikely the vaccine would be approved for use in the United States, because the data so far did not match requirements set by regulators there. AstraZeneca said it plans to seek approval to modify its U.S. study to get more data on the smaller initial dose.

Some scientists said all three vaccines could prove comparable in the end.

"I think it is a real fool's errand to start trying to pick these three (Pfizer/Moderna/Astra) apart on the basis of snippets of phase 3 data from press releases," said Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London.

"For the bigger picture, my suspicion is that by the time we are a year down the line, we'll be using all three vaccines with about 90% protection - and we'll be a lot happier."

Pascal Soriot, Astra's chief executive, said the smaller initial dose was good news, as it meant limited supplies could stretch further to vaccinate more people.

The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a modified version of a chimpanzee cold virus to deliver instructions to cells to fight the target virus, a different approach from Pfizer and Moderna, which rely on new technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA).

AstraZeneca will now prepare regulatory submission of the data to authorities around the world that have a framework for conditional or early approval. It will also seek an emergency use listing from the WHO to speed up availability in poor countries.

AstraZeneca says COVID-19 'vaccine for the world' can be 90% effective
 

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Comments (9)
Jim Robertson
Jim Robertson Nov 23, 2020 12:24PM ET
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just shut up will ya, Only Biden can save us. A nd you were saying China Joe.
Bobster Bambino
Bobster Bambino Nov 23, 2020 11:21AM ET
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The loser of the 3 vaccines. And adverse reaction of transverse myelitis is no joke
Klaus Weyers
Klaus Weyers Nov 23, 2020 10:30AM ET
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dim.. learn the fifference beteeen effective and being sure
François Du
François Du Nov 23, 2020 9:42AM ET
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90% effective Means that 800 millon people may die from covid
Gary Bergman
Gary Bergman Nov 23, 2020 9:42AM ET
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no. not if everyone gets vaccinated. do the statistics and math.
Paul Dunne
Paul Dunne Nov 23, 2020 9:42AM ET
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With a 3% mortality rate, if 10,000 people are positive, 300 will die. But with a 90% effective vaccine, only 10% of those 300, or 30, will die.
Tony Coll
Tony Coll Nov 23, 2020 9:19AM ET
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How much do you wanna bet that Moderna's will be 90%+ effective? And what would be the odds that all these companies, given their rushed controversial experimental process, would all be 90%+ effective? ... I smell a rat
Robert Cox
Robert Cox Nov 23, 2020 9:19AM ET
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It seems strange that a half dose followed by a full dose later would generate better results than two full doses administered at separate times.
Ta Sir
Ta Sir Nov 23, 2020 9:19AM ET
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the first half dose is just to test your body if he can accept the vaccine " no bad side effect" after if your body is ok they will inject you the full dose after 1 month
Ta Sir
Ta Sir Nov 23, 2020 9:19AM ET
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the first half dose is to test your body if he can accept the vaccine " no bad symtoms" after 1 month they will inject you the full dose
Robert Cox
Robert Cox Nov 23, 2020 9:19AM ET
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That shouldn't impact the drug's overall effectiveness. In fact, it should signal the body to strengthen it's immune response beforehand.
Troy Nguyen
MrHonest Nov 23, 2020 7:24AM ET
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Seems like Monday is vaccine news day and markets up!
Nov 23, 2020 7:24AM ET
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Its the new hope!
Nov 23, 2020 6:06AM ET
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Also i keep readings its 70% effective. Where you guys getting the 90% from?
Ji Go
Ji Go Nov 23, 2020 6:06AM ET
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Same
Ji Go
Ji Go Nov 23, 2020 6:06AM ET
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So read the other sources: 70% is their avg effectiveness across all their dosage trials which somehow doesn't maths because (90+62)/2=76 not 70.
Tony Coll
Tony Coll Nov 23, 2020 6:06AM ET
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70% is the amount of the population that would have to be vaccinated in order to reach heard immunity
Nov 23, 2020 5:56AM ET
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Here we go again...
 
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