London, November 4
The COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford could present late-stage trial results before the year end but it is unclear if it will be rolled out before Christmas, the chief trial investigator for the vaccine said on Wednesday.
“I’m optimistic that we could reach that point before the end of this year,” Oxford Vaccine Trial Chief Investigator Andrew Pollard said of presenting trial results this year.
Pollard said working out whether or not the vaccine worked would likely come this year he said, after which the data would have to be carefully reviewed by regulators and then a political decision made on who should get the vaccine.
“Our bit – we are getting closer to but we are not there yet,” Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said.
Asked if he expected the vaccine would start to be deployed before Christmas, he said: “There is a small chance of that being possible but I just don’t know.”
“Our trials are only one of many that are going on around the world, a number of which may well report before the end of the year, and so those steps will need to be happening for multiple different products,” he said.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to be submitted for regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate.
A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.2 million people, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people.
If it works, a vaccine would allow the world to return to some measure of normality after the tumult of the pandemic.
Pollard said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had set the bar for a vaccine being at least 50% effective – a level that would have a transformative impact on the pandemic.
“But to be able scientifically able to test 50% is a lot harder – you need a lot more cases to occur in the trials,” he said. “So I think we are all hoping the vaccine will be more effective than that which means we will have an answer sooner.” “What the actual level of efficacy is unknown at the moment – no one has unblinded their trials and looked at the data so far.” Reuters