Oxford coronavirus vaccine is 70% effective on average, researchers say

It's the third such announcement in just two weeks.

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The Oxford vaccine doesn't need to be kept as cold as efforts by Pfizer and Moderna.

Tang Ming Tung/Getty

An interim analysis of the COVID-19 vaccine in development by Oxford University and biotech firm AstraZeneca has shown encouraging results, with data from the large, phase 3 clinical trial demonstrating an average "effectiveness" of 70.4%, according to the vaccine development team. 

Multiple efforts to develop vaccines are taking place in countries throughout the world, with the hope of dispersing a vaccine among vulnerable populations as soon as possible and preventing further spread of the virus.

On Monday, AstraZeneca and Oxford University revealed the interim analyses in press releases, only two weeks after vaccine candidates from Pfizer and then Moderna were shown to be at least 90% effective against COVID-19 infections.

The new analysis, which is yet to be peer reviewed, looked at 131 COVID-19 cases in which two different dosing regimes were trialed. The first was a half dose followed by a full dose a month later. The second was two full doses given one month apart. The former regime was highly effective at preventing infection.

"We've found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective and if this dosing regimen is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply," said Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, in Oxford's press release.

Researchers are continuing to evaluate data on this regimen, which they believe could help prevent transmission of the virus, and are hoping to release more information on this soon.

One of the major benefits of the Oxford vaccine over its counterparts from Pfizer and Moderna is its ability to be stored in regular fridges rather than ultra-cold freezers, allowing it to be more readily transported around the world.

The clinical trials for the Oxford vaccine involved volunteers from the UK, South Africa and Brazil. No-one who took part in a trial was hospitalized, and there were no severe cases reported. Further trials are now taking place in the US, Kenya, Japan and India, with researchers aiming to have just under 60,000 participants in the trial by the end of the year.

The next step for this vaccine is for Oxford University and AstraZeneca to submit the gathered data to regulators across the world for independent scrutiny and product approval -- including for emergency use. Regulators have been examining the data on a rolling basis throughout the trials, but will need the full analysis to approve the vaccine.

"As with all interim results we have seen, it is critically important that the trial is completed and regulators can now independently and rigorously assess the data," said Charlie Weller, head of vaccines at Wellcome.

The same data analysis will be submitted for independent scientific peer review and publication.

AstraZeneca and Oxford have agreed to distribute the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis around the world. They say they have no intention of changing these conditions in low- and middle-income countries.