Three advantages and one disadvantage of the Oxford vaccine

  • The European Medicines Agency recommends the approval of this immunization against covid-19; the third available to the Twenty-seven

  • The arrival of this drug could change the course of the vaccination campaign around the world

Green light to AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine; the antigen that could change the course of the vaccination campaign against covid-19. After almost four months of monitoring and reviewing clinical trials, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended approval of this immunization. It is the third vaccine against covid-19 that achieves the ‘ok’ for distribution in Europe, after the authorization of the Pfizer and Moderna formulas between December and January. Several experts questioned by this newspaper point out three advantages and an inconvenience on the recently approved immunization; the first that could have a global reach.

The three strategic advantages of this vaccine

The AstraZeneca and Oxford formula would have at least three advantages regarding to Pfizer and Moderna, according to Rafael Vilasanjuan, member of the Global Alliance for Vaccination (GAVI) and director of the Department of Analysis and Global Development of ISGlobal. It is easier to produce regarding mRNA vaccines. It has a simpler logistics, since it does not require an ultra-cold chain or large infrastructures for its storage. And its price, which is between two and three euros, is the cheapest to date. “It is the first vaccine to reach low-income countries“, highlights the expert.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in fact, could issue its approval of this vaccine in just a few weeks. If everything goes fine, the first batches could reach Africa between February and March. Its distribution would be relatively simple, while the vials would only have to be preserved at between two and eight degrees centigrade. “They could be transported in beach coolers, so that we can understand each other,” explains Vilasanjuan. Its cost, although high for poor countries, would be within the affordable range. “The vaccination program for children under five in Africa costs a total of two dollars (except for the pneumonia vaccine, which costs three). Vaccinating a person against covid-19 would cost four dollars. Still expensive for poor countries, but within reason”, Exemplifies the expert.

It is the first vaccine to reach low-income countries

Rafael Vilasanjuan, member of the Global Alliance for Vaccination (GAVI)

If we only have complicated and expensive vaccines, it will be impossible to stop the pandemic. And if we only vaccinate Europe and forget about the rest of the countries, we will not have to close borders at all ”, Vilasanjuan summarizes. The international alliance ‘Covax Facility’, formed by 140 countries, plans to distribute enough vaccines to immunize 20% of people of the poorest countries in the world. The Oxford one would be the first vaccine that they would begin to distribute in the global south. AstraZeneca, meanwhile, pledged to sell the vaccine “non-profit” while there is a pandemic.

He price of vaccines It could also mark a turning point in Northern Hemisphere vaccination campaigns. In Spain, for example, vaccinating the entire population with the Pfizer formula would cost 1,500 million euros (only taking into account the purchase of the doses and not including the cost of the attached sanitary material, such as syringes). With AstraZeneca, on the other hand, the total cost would amount to 150 million euros. The difference, according to Vilasanjuan, is abysmal.

The main drawback

On the other side of the coin, the AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine also has a significant limitation. Most clinical studies have relied on volunteers between 18 and 55 years old. That is to say, young population. “In light of the latest published results on the clinical trial we see that, at least for now, efficacy data in population over 65 are still insufficient“, qualifies Fernando Moraga Llop, vice president of the Spanish Association of Vaccination. “This does not mean that the vaccine is contraindicated for the elderly. It means that more information needs to be obtained to see what protection it offers to this age group. It is a temporary limitation“, adds the expert in statements to this newspaper. This same criticism, in fact, also highlighted in the report of the German vaccination committee, which advised administering this vaccine only to people between 18 and 64 years old.

This does not mean that the vaccine is contraindicated for the elderly. Means more information needs to be obtained

Fernando Moraga Llop, vice president of the Spanish Association of Vaccination

The European Medicines Agency, for its part, has ruled on this issue, recalling that, despite the limitations of the study, yes there is reliable information on safety and effectiveness of vaccines in older people. Based on these data, the health authority advises administering the vaccine from the age of 18 and, for now, without an age limit. Of course, it requires the pharmacist to send more information about the clinical studies underway in people over 65.

The story behind these injections

The scientific history of this vaccine begins in January 2020, shortly after word began to spread about an emerging coronavirus detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Even before the term covid-19 was coined, researchers at the University of Oxford began work on a vaccine to deal with this new pathogen. They started from scratch. Designing a formula, testing it in laboratories, and testing it on animal models. In MarchAfter confirming the success of the experiments in macaques, the first tests in humans began.

Once preliminary studies showed that the designed vaccine was at least safe, the race started to demonstrate the efficacy of these formulas. In April, more than 500 volunteers were recruited for the first stage of the clinical study, made in Great Britain. Between May and June the large-scale studies, combining the second and third phases of the clinical protocol. The goal, to test the compound on a large scale (comparing its efficacy versus a placebo injection). Thousands and thousands of tests later, and after overcoming several stops to study possible adverse effects, the studies began to show more than encouraging results.

The last week of November Astrazeneca and Oxford released the preliminary results of the large-scale studies. After more than 24,000 tests on volunteers from the UK, Brazil and South Africa, the data pointed to an efficacy of 62% using two full doses of the drug, separated by 28 days apart. To date, no serious adverse effects have been detected in any of those vaccinated. Neither have cases been detected that have developed a severe form of the disease or required hospitalization.

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The formula for this vaccine is relatively simple. You start by taking a harmless virus; the cause of common colds in chimpanzees. And it is added a pinch of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. To be more exact, the ‘recipe’ takes a genetic fragment of the proteins that give the virus its characteristic crown shape. This combination, inoculated through intramuscular injection, serves to awaken an immune response in our body. There, the body’s natural barriers to infection would begin to form.


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