Oxford’s COVID-19 Vaccine Shows Promising Results In Early Trials

The experimental vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford has shown a strong immune response in first phases of human trials.

A volunteer receives a injection in Soweto, South Africa as part of Oxford University's human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine. | Getty Images
A volunteer receives a injection in Soweto, South Africa as part of Oxford University's human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine. | Getty Images

A COVID-19 vaccine that’s currently being tested on humans has shown promising results, according to data published Monday. 

In a partnership with global pharmaceutical corporation AstraZeneca, the Oxford-developed vaccine underwent the first two phases of testing. Data from those phases published in the Lancet showed the vaccine produced a strong immune response in participants. 

In the first phase of trials, researchers tested a vaccine they’re calling ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 in a study that included 1,077 healthy participants aged 18 to 55. 

In the study conducted between April 23 and May 21, researchers found that a majority of participants who received the experimental vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies and T-cells. Triggering the development of T-cells and antibodies have proven to be effective in other vaccinations. 

Mature T-cells are a type of white blood cell in the body that can detect foreign antigens and attack them. Researchers have long aimed to develop vaccines that induce T-cells to protect the body against infectious diseases including malaria and HIV. 

Researchers behind the vaccine study reported that “there are accumulating data to suggest T-cell responses play an important role in COVID-19 mitigation.” 

The study stated that “no serious adverse events” related to the trial vaccine were reported, though some subjects experienced side effects including headache, feeling feverish, chills, muscle ache, and malaise. Those participants were given medication often used for children who receive vaccinations to curb the side effects. 

“While there is more work to be done, today’s data increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale for broad and equitable access around the world,” said Mene Pangalos, a neuroscientist and executive at AstraZeneca. 

In late May, Oxford announced it was gearing up to begin the next round of human trials on older adults and children. According to the study, Phase 3 of testing is  underway in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK so researchers can test the vaccine across diverse populations. 

More than 100 vaccines have been in development since the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spread worldwide earlier this year, infecting millions, and altering everyday life. As of Monday, more than 14 million people have tested positive for COVID-19, causing at least 606,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. In the U.S., which leads the world in COVID-19 cases, the number of deaths connected to the virus has climbed past 140,000.

AstraZeneca committed to provide 400 million doses of the Oxford vaccine starting in September and has secured funding and resources for an additional one billion doses into 2021. The U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has put forth $1 billion in funding for the vaccine. 

“Today’s results are extremely encouraging, taking us one step closer to finding a successful vaccine to protect millions in the UK and across the world,” said Alok Sharma, the UK’s Business Secretary and a conservative MP. “The agility and speed with which the University of Oxford have been working is outstanding. I am very proud of what they have achieved so far.”