In terms of distribution, which is the foremost challenge in getting a vaccine across the world, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be manufactured in multiple countries, from India to Brazil. The global manufacturing scope should make it easier to deploy the jab to the remotest regions of the world.
AstraZeneca said Monday a coronavirus vaccine developed with Oxford University can prevent 70.4% of people from getting Covid-19 and up to 90% if half a dose is used followed by a full one later, according to an early analysis of trial data.
Clinical tests were done on diverse racial and geographical groups in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa with further tests also being carried out in the United States, Kenya, Russia, Japan, and India, the researchers said.
The announcement from the England-headquartered pharmaceutical giant represents another promising breakthrough in the effort to end a pandemic that has infected 58.7 million people and killed almost 1.4 million globally.
The efficacy level of the Astra-Oxford jab is below the bar set by Pfizer and Moderna, both of which said earlier this month preliminary results from late-stage trials showed that their vaccine candidates were 95% effective. But the British vaccine has quite a number of advantages over its American counterparts.
Makers of the AstraZeneca jab have said their drug can prevent people in different age groups from getting ill, including the elderly. But more analysis will have to be carried out to determine how long the protection could last, the researchers said.
The vaccine also comes at a lower cost. Astra has said it does not intend to profit during the pandemic and that its vaccine will cost between $4 and $5 a dose. By contrast, Pfizer and BioNTech are charging $19.50 a dose, or $39 for a two-shot immunization while Moderna’s jab is priced at $25 to $37.
In terms of distribution, which is the foremost challenge in getting a vaccine across the world, the Astra vaccine will be manufactured in multiple countries, from India to Brazil. The global manufacturing scope should make it easier to deploy the jab to the remotest regions of the world.
The jab can also be used in existing healthcare settings such as medical clinics and local pharmacies as it can be kept at refrigerator temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius for at least six months unlike the other two vaccines, which based on RNA technology, require freezing for longer-term storage and transport.
The low-cost and storage advantages make it easier to deploy the Astra vaccine globally, especially in lower and middle-income countries. According to reports, most regions outside rich nations like the U.S. are depending heavily on vaccine candidates behind front-runners Pfizer and Moderna.
The London-based research firm Airfinity Ltd found that over 50 lower- and middle-income countries would receive Astra and Oxford’s shot, in regions that include Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe.
As of Sunday afternoon, total reported cases of Covid-19 in the African continent had surged past two million while the death toll neared 50,000, per data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
A global program called Covax is making real progress to ensure future vaccines are deployed equitably around the world. So far, the World Health Organisation-led initiative has brought onboard several countries and secured deals for 700 million doses.
AstraZeneca has also agreed to supply the initiative. Also, there is a partnership to accelerate the production of Astra shots for low- and middle-income nations, priced at a maximum of $3 per dose.
The program is also led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi. More deals are expected in the coming weeks.
AstraZeneca has said it will manufacture 200 million doses by the end of this year and should have 700 million doses ready globally by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
The vaccine efficacy data will immediately be submitted to regulators for review and approval around the world, including in the U.K., Europe, and Brazil, it said. Astra will also apply for an emergency use listing from the WHO to make the vaccine quickly available in low-income countries.
Meanwhile, frontrunner Pfizer applied for an emergency use authorization in the U.S. on Friday and may begin the rollout of its vaccine in mid-December while Russia is planning to produce its touted and controversial Sputnik V vaccine in other countries such as India and Brazil.