The coronavirus vaccine trial run by the University of Oxford has raised hopes, as it shows results of neutralising antibody development against SARS-CoV-2. According to the report published on The Lancet today, the trial which involved 1077 participants indicates that the new Vaccine is safe and has developed SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibodies and T-cells effectively!
Although it is still early to finalise its effects, the current findings are promising, prompting the UK government to preorder 100 million doses of the Vaccine.
This new vaccine called the ‘ChAdOx1 nCoV-19’ is made from a genetically engineered version of the Common Cold Virus which usually infects Chimpanzees. These modifications have ensured the virus do not infect humans and to appear similar to the Coronavirus. This was done by transferring the coronavirus’ genetic information for the spike protein into the common cold virus. It is the ‘Spike Protein’ that is responsible for the invasion into our cells! In a way, this method is coaxing our immune system to face a coronavirus lookalike and to act accordingly.
When our immune system faces these virus particles, they produce special kind of antibodies which can latch onto the virus surface and neutralize them, i.e. Neutralising Antibodies. Along with this, there are T-cells which can detect endangered body cells and destroy any foreign matter. It is a type of a White blood cell. The triggering of both these neutralising antibodies and T-cells usually makes an effective vaccines.
In the trial, after the first dose, the participants showed a peaked T-cell response in 14 days and the neutralising antibody levels peaked in 28 days time. The observation of both these immune particles has raised the trail’s hopes very high! Among the participants, 90%of them developed these immune responses after a single vaccine dose! The remaining 10% gained a similar immune response after the second dose.
Although the duration of this induced protection is still under investigation, the study suggests, the immune response can be further enhanced and prolonged with a second dose!
And the main question comes next, is it safe?
The Oxford Vaccine is said to be free from any dangerous side effects though it can develop mild fever or headache as 70% of the participants had these side effects. But according to the researchers, these mild symptoms were easily managed with a dose of paracetamol.
Although the results are promising the trail is far from over. The next step would be to test among a larger group of people in the UK. It will be a group of more than 10,000 participants. Along with this, 30,000 people in the USA, 5000 participants in Brazil and another 2000 in South Africa would be tested simultaneously.
There is hope a successful vaccine will be ready by the end of the year. Although it will not be widely available at first, people with a higher risk of being seriously ill with Covid-19 and all the front line health workers would be the first to get the vaccine.
The Oxford vaccine is the third in the line to get this far along the trial. The first one is from the US company Moderna which uses an RNA strand of the SARS CoV2 virus to trigger an immune response in the human body! There is a similar technique to the Oxford Vaccine being studied in China which has also showed promising results. There is a total of 23 clinical trials for SARS-CoV-2 worldwide. While everything is on the table for a working Coronavirus vaccine, these results hopefully will give us a victorious 2021!