Third Virus Vaccine Highly Effective in Late-Stage Trials

The AstraZeneca offices in Cambridge, England. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

(CN) — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate around the world, British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said Monday that its Covid-19 vaccine was up to 90% effective in late-stage clinical trials.

The news comes after Pfizer and Moderna both announced last week that their vaccines were about 95% effective. But the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed in conjunction with Oxford University, is said to be cheaper and easier to distribute because it doesn’t have to be kept at an ultra-cold temperature.

Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said in a statement Monday that the results show “we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives.”

“Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply,” he said.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said the trial results mark “an important milestone in our fight against the pandemic.”

“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against Covid-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” he said in a statement. “Furthermore, the vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available, supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval.”

While the two other vaccines were shown to be more effective, AstraZeneca said its treatment will only cost about $2.50 compared to $20 for Pfizer’s dose and $15 to $25 for Moderna’s.

In addition, the AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, between 36 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Pfizer’s vaccine, by contrast, must be distributed through a dry ice system that keeps temperatures around minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit.  

All three vaccines have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before they can be distributed in the U.S. Pfizer formally requested such approval on Friday.

The promising news on vaccines comes amid a surge in Covid-19 cases around the world. There are more than 58 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 1.3 million people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Over 12 million Americans have been found to be infected with the respiratory disease and 256,000 have died.

Experts fear the U.S. is heading into its worst stage of the pandemic yet as the country prepares to celebrate the holidays a little differently this year. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving and only celebrate with people they live with.   

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told the New York Times over the weekend that December, January and February “are going to be terribly painful months.”

“It’s almost an exponential curve,” Fauci said of the recent infection rate. The U.S. is reporting nearly 200,000 new cases a day while hospitals are running out of ICU beds.

“It’s different because when you have an exponential curve up like that, by the time it peaks and then comes ultimately down, the duration of the surge is much longer,” he said, explaining why this latest wave of infections is different.

But Fauci pointed to the “spectacular results of the vaccines” as a reason for hope during a lockdown winter.

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