March 2, 2021

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AstraZeneca vaccine shown to drastically cut virus transmission by UK study

“Our data suggest you want to be as close to the 12 weeks as you can” for the second dose, he said.

The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has been shown to substantially slows the transmission of the virus.

The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has been shown to substantially slows the transmission of the virus.Credit:AP

The study has not been peer-reviewed yet and does not address the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the other one currently in use in the UK Pfizer recommends that its shots be given 21 days apart and has not endorsed the UK government’s decision to lengthen the time between doses.

But the Oxford research was greeted with excitement by UK officials under pressure to justify their decision to delay the second dose.

“That reduction in transmission, as well as the fact there is no hospitalisation, the combination of that is very good news. And it categorically supports the strategy we’ve been taking on having a 12-week gap between the doses,” Hancock told Sky News.

Some countries, including France, have authorised the AstraZeneca vaccine only for use in people under 65, saying there is not enough evidence to say whether it works in older adults. Belgium has authorised it only for people 55 and under.

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Yet one of the lead researchers on the Oxford vaccine project, Dr. Andrew Pollard, said “we expect it to be highly effective in older adults” and said more data should be available in the next few weeks.

Britain has Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 108,000 deaths, and is in its third national lockdown as authorities try to contain a new, more transmissible virus variant first identified in southeast England.

Other variants are also a concern. Public health officials in England are going door to door, trying to test all adults in eight targeted communities in an attempt to stop a new strain first identified in South Africa from spreading further.

So far 105 cases of the variant have been identified in the UK, 11 of them in people with no links to overseas travel. Scientists say there’s no evidence the South African variant is more serious than the original virus but it may be more contagious. There are also concerns that current vaccines may be less effective against that variant because it contains a mutation of the virus’ characteristic spike protein that existing vaccines target.

That is a worry as the UK races to vaccinate its own population against the virus. Almost 10 million people have received the first of their two shots, including the bulk of people over 80 and those in nursing homes.

Pollard said Oxford scientists believe the AstraZeneca vaccine will continue to offer protection against new variants of COVID-19, although they are still waiting for data on that.

He said even if the virus adapts “that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection against severe disease.″⁣

“If we do need to update the vaccines, then it is actually a relatively straightforward process. It only takes a matter of months, rather than the huge efforts that everyone went through last year to get the very large-scale trials run,” he told the BBC.

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