The University of Oxford coronavirus vaccine appears to train the immune system without safety concerns, the University has announced.

In the first stage of trials, the vaccine was tested on more than 1,000 healthy adult volunteers aged between 18 and 55 years.

Participants had detectable neutralising antibodies, which researchers believe is important for protection. 100% of participants showed neutralising activity against the virus. The strength of response ranged, but vaccine antibody levels were in the same range as those of people who had previously had COVID-19.

Tests show the vaccine produced white blood cells within 14 days of vaccination and an antibody response within 28 days. The strongest immune responses occurred in the ten participants who received two doses of the vaccine.

Researchers will now focus on confirming that the virus can effectively protect against SARs-CoV-2 infection. This trial drew from young, healthy, British volunteers. The authors of the study have stated that “Phase 3 trials are now underway in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK and will evaluate vaccine efficacy in diverse populations”. Additionally, “Older age groups with comorbidities, health-care workers, and those with higher risk for SARS-CoV-2 exposure are being recruited and assessed.”

The University is working with the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for further development.

The Chief investigator of the trial, Professor Andrew Pollard, said: “The Phase I/II data for our coronavirus vaccine shows that the vaccine did not lead to any unexpected reactions and had a similar safety profile to previous vaccines of this type.

“The immune responses observed following vaccination are in line with what previous animal studies have shown are associated with protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, although we must continue with our rigorous clinical trial programme to confirm this in humans.”

“We saw the strongest immune response in the 10 participants who received two doses of the vaccine, indicating that this might be a good strategy for vaccination.” 

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “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.

“Backed by £84 million Government investment for the vaccine’s development and manufacture, 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.”

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