From AstraZeneca, a Cheaper, Effective COVID-19 Vaccine

    23 November 2020

    Britain's AstraZeneca and scientists at the University of Oxford reported Monday that their vaccine candidate could be up to 90 percent effective against COVID-19.

    It is the third drug-maker in recent days, along with Pfizer and Moderna, to report promising news from early results of a vaccine candidate.

    The group said the results came from 131 COVID-19 infections in large Phase 3 trials using two different vaccine treatments. The treatment of a half first dose followed by a full second dose one month later was found to be 90 percent effective. The treatment using a full dose for both was found to be 62 percent effective.

    The Oxford scientists said early results also showed no hospitalized or severe cases in anyone who received the vaccine.

    In this undated photo from the University of Oxford, a volunteer received a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns)
    In this undated photo from the University of Oxford, a volunteer received a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns)

    Professor Andrew Pollard is Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. He said, "These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives." Pollard added if the more effective treatment of a half first dose is used, "more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply."

    AstraZeneca's chief executive Pascal Soriot has promised that the drug-maker is not planning to make a profit from the vaccine. Its vaccine will cost about $2.50 a dose. Based on the agreements with the U.S. government, those from Moderna and Pfizer will cost between $15 and $25 a dose.

    Unlike vaccine candidates from Pfizer and Moderna, the one from the Oxford-AstraZeneca group does not require extreme-cold storage. This makes for easier transportation and storage in developing countries.

    AstraZeneca says it will now immediately present the vaccine data to regulators around the world for conditional or early approval. The drug-maker added it will also seek "an Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization" to make the vaccine available sooner in developing countries.

    Zahid Maleque, the health minister of Bangladesh, called the findings "really good news." He told Reuters, "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." Bangladesh is buying 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

    Who will get the vaccine and when?

    With several promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates, the attention will now center on who will get vaccinated and when.

    The British government has said that if the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine proves effective, the first 30 million doses would be for Britons. Separately, AstraZeneca signed deals to make at least 300 million doses available for the United States and another 400 million for European Union members.

    Under its Operation Warp Speed program, the U.S. also has agreements to buy vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax.

    Dr. Moncef Slaoui is head of Operation Warp Speed. He said healthcare workers and other high-risk people could start getting shots produced by Pfizer within a day or two of emergency use approval next month. He said on the American channel CNN, "I would expect, maybe on day two after approval on the 11th or 12th of December, hopefully the first people will be immunized across the United States."

    Over the weekend, leaders of wealthy nations met virtually for the G-20 summit. The group, which included Britain, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and others, stressed the importance of making COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests available around the world.

    The group agreed it would "spare no effort to protect lives." It also expressed support for COVAX, an international effort to provide COVID-19 vaccines to 92 low- and middle-income countries.

    Dr. Seth Berkley is head of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. He said the organization has raised $2 billion so far for the COVAX effort. He added, "We urgently need to raise at least an additional $5 billion by the end of 2021 to ensure equitable distribution of these vaccines to those who need them."

    The U.S. government is not involved in the COVAX effort. However, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given $156 million to the effort.

    I'm Jonathan Evans.

    Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    dose - n. the amount of medicine or drug that is taken at one time

    regulator - n. government official who controls a public activity by making and enforcing rules

    advantage - n. a good or desirable feature

    facility - n. building or equipment that is built for a specific purpose

    virtually - adv. happening on the internet or online

    income - n. money that is earned

    distribution - n. the act of delivering something to people