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

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine could be around 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.

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 was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 when it was administered as a half dose followed by a full dose at least a month later, according to data from late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil. No serious safety events were confirmed, the company said.

The vaccine’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 massive 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.

NOVEMBER 23, 2020

https://www.reuters.com/

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