Early results find U.K. coronavirus vaccine ‘safe and induces an immune reaction’

A trial of a U.K.-developed coronavirus vaccine has found that it is safe and induces an immune reaction, according to preliminary results.

The research, published in the Lancet medical journal on Monday, shows that a Phase 1/2 trial of more than 1,000 healthy adults found that the vaccine induced strong immune responses up to Day 56 of the ongoing trial.

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While people who received the vaccine did experience more side effects than those in the control group, who took a meningitis vaccine instead, there were no serious side effects reported. Fatigue and headache were the most frequently reported reactions.

The vaccine candidate is already in large-scale Phase 3 human trials to assess whether it can protect against COVID-19. The results released Monday only reflect the very earliest phase of clinical trials to assess basic safety and efficacy.

“We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,” said Dr. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, which conducted the research. “What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system,” he said.

Hill said that neutralizing antibodies are produced — molecules which are key to blocking infection. In addition, the vaccine also causes a reaction in the body’s T-cells which help to fight off the coronavirus.

He said that larger trials evaluating the vaccine’s effectiveness, involving about 10,000 people in the U.K. as well as participants in South Africa and Brazil are still underway. Another big trial is slated to start in the U.S. soon, aiming to enrol about 30,000 people.

How quickly scientists are able to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness will depend largely on how much more transmission there is, but Hill estimated they might have sufficient data by the end of the year to decide if the vaccine should be adopted for mass vaccination campaigns.

He said the vaccine seemed to produce a comparable level of antibodies to those produced by people who recovered from a COVID-19 infection and hoped that the T-cell response would provide extra protection.

“There’s increasing evidence that having a T-cell response as well as antibodies could be very important in controlling COVID-19,” Hill said. He suggested the immune response might be boosted after a second dose; their trial tested two doses administered about four weeks apart.

Another vaccine trial in China of a different formulation also reported favourable results in the Lancet on Monday.

More to come.

— with files from the Associated Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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