The drug maker AstraZeneca announced on Monday that an early analysis of its late-stage clinical trials in Britain and Brazil showed that its coronavirus vaccine was 90 percent effective when given in one dosing regimen, but only 62 percent effective in a different regimen — encouraging, if complicated, results for a vaccine expected to be relied upon heavily across the globe to help curb a pandemic that has killed more than 1.3 million people.
On average, the vaccine was 70 percent effective across the two dosing plans. The company said its vaccine could be stored for at least six months in a standard refrigerator, rather than under the intense chill required by other leading coronavirus vaccines, easing the distribution of a vaccine that is also cheaper and easier to produce than some of its competitors.
In the dosing plan that worked better, study participants were given a half-dose of the vaccine and then, a month later, a full dose. The vaccine was less effective when they were given a standard full dose upfront, followed a month later by another full dose. If the apparently more effective regimen is the one ultimately authorized by regulators across the globe, it could allow more people to be vaccinated at a time when vaccines will be in short supply.
The British-Swedish company, which has been developing the vaccine with the University of Oxford, became the third major vaccine developer this month to announce encouraging early results, following Pfizer and Moderna, which both said that their vaccines were about 95 percent effective in late-stage studies.
AstraZeneca’s results could significantly strengthen the global effort to produce enough vaccine to create population immunity: The price of the shot, at $3 to $4, is a fraction of that of some other potential vaccines, and AstraZeneca has pledged to make it available at cost around the world until at least July 2021 and in poorer countries in perpetuity. The vaccine can also be manufactured in mass quantities relatively easily; AstraZeneca said it expected to begin supplying the vaccine by the end of this year, and to make up to 3 billion doses next year.
The scientists said that they had not identified any “serious safety events related to the vaccine,” a reassuring sign. The vaccine had come under global scrutiny after AstraZeneca temporarily paused its trials in September to investigate potential safety issues after a participant in Britain developed a neurological illness.
Shares rose on European markets after the announcement, and Wall Street futures turned upward. But AstraZeneca’s shares slipped 1.5 percent.
Oxford and AstraZeneca said they would submit the data to regulators in Britain, Europe and Brazil and seek emergency authorization to start distributing the vaccine there, and begin discussions about its data with regulators in the United States.
The company said its early analysis was based on 131 coronavirus cases that turned up among participants at least two weeks after they had received their second shot. In the trial in Britain, researchers counted infections by swabbing participants weekly. That detection method was likely to have turned up more infections…
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