Doubts over Oxford vaccine as it fails to stop coronavirus in animal trials

Separate funding was announced for a UK vaccine manufacturing capacity – the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre – in Oxford. This will be able to manufacture a range of vaccines depending on what works.

Despite the findings, there is still “cautious optimism” about the Oxford vaccine among some experts. In the study all of the animals administered with a single shot of the vaccine generated antibodies against the virus within 28 days. 

“The most important finding to me is the combination of considerable efficacy in terms of viral load and subsequent pneumonia, but no evidence of immune-enhanced disease,” said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

“It is encouraging to see these results and suggests cautious optimism for the Oxford vaccine trial being done in humans.”

Dr Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, said: “Single doses of the vaccine produced high quantities of neutralising antibody in both species. 

“It is helpful to see that monkeys vaccinated with this Sars-CoV-2 vaccine did not have any evidence of enhanced lung pathology and that, despite some evidence of upper respiratory tract infection by Sars-Cov-2 after high viral load virus challenge, monkeys given the vaccine did not have any evidence of pneumonia.”

But Eleanor Riley, professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, said there was both good and bad news in the most monkey trials:

“Whilst the vaccine induced neutralising antibodies and vaccinated animals experienced less severe clinical symptoms than unvaccinated animals (good), the neutralising antibody titres were low and insufficient to prevent infection and – importantly – insufficient to prevent viral shedding in nasal secretions (worrying).

“If similar results were obtained in humans, the vaccine would likely provide partial protection against disease in the vaccine recipient but would be unlikely to reduce transmission in the wider community.”

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