The coronavirus vaccine developed by the British University of Oxford seems “safe” and “trains” the immune system, according to the findings of the first phases of the study, released on Monday.
During clinical trials conducted by experts from the prestigious academic center, 1,077 volunteers showed that an injection led them to produce antibodies and white blood cells that can fight the virus.
These findings, published in the medical journal “The Lancet“, are considered “very promising”, although larger-scale trials are still needed to determine if the antibodies are sufficient to offer long-term protection against the disease.
The vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, which is being developed at an unprecedented rate, is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees.
Scientists have greatly modified it so that it cannot cause infections in people and so that it more closely resembles the coronavirus.
They have done this by transferring genetic instructions for the so-called “peak protein” of the coronavirus, the key tool it uses to invade human cells, into the vaccine they are developing.
In this way, this vaccine resembles the coronavirus and the immune system can learn how to fight it.
Despite the relevance of these early discoveries, experts have warned that the study has not been operational long enough to understand whether it offers long-term immunity.
As for the side effects, the scientists determined that they exist although they are not considered dangerous.
In their trials, they found that 70% of the people who participated in the study developed fever or headache, although these symptoms could be treated with paracetamol.
“There is still a lot of work to be done before we can confirm whether our vaccine will help control the COVID -19 pandemic, but these preliminary results are promising,” said Sarah Gilbert of Oxford University today.
For his part, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a message on Twitter that these findings constitute “very positive news” and praised the “brilliant and pioneering scientists and researchers at the University of Oxford.”
“There are no guarantees, we are not there yet and more trials will be necessary, but this is an important step in the right direction,” stressed the conservative leader.
Much of the attention in the development of coronavirus antidotes to date has focused on antibodies, which are only part of the immune defense system.
Vaccines that are considered effective induce both antibodies and T-cell responses, a type of white blood cell that help coordinate the immune system and can detect and destroy which cells have been infected.
The study showed that 90% of people developed neutralizing antibodies after being injected with one dose and only ten people were given two doses, of which all produced more neutralizing antibodies.
The research group’s Andrew Pollard told the BBC today that while the results are “extremely promising,” the “key” question now is “whether the vaccine works” as an antidote, and we must wait in this regard.