Oxford Vaccine Induces ‘Robust’ Immune Response In Older Adults, Early Findings Show

Topline

The Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca is safe and able to generate a “robust” immune response in older adults, according to early findings from Phase 2 clinical trials published in medical journal The Lancet Wednesday, findings researchers describe as “encouraging” given the high risk older adults have of developing serious Covid-19.

Key Facts

The results — from a Phase 2 clinical trial studying the response of the vaccine in 560 adults, including 240 over the age of 70 — found a similar immune response in all ages studied. 

Typically, older adults respond less well to vaccines as “the immune system gradually deteriorates with age,” says lead author Professor Andrew Pollard.   

It’s therefore important to ensure vaccines are tested in this group, Pollard says, who are also considered a priority for Covid-19 vaccination given their high risk of developing serious disease.

While further research will be needed to determine whether the vaccine is effective — Phase 3 trials are already underway to do this — Dr Maheshi Ramasamy, a co-author of the study, said the “robust” immune responses seen in older people “are encouraging.” 

The adverse reactions to the vaccine — which researchers described as “mild,” including injection site pain, headache and fatigue — were also less common in older adults.  

Crucial Quote 

“The populations at greatest risk of serious COVID-19 disease include people with existing health conditions and older adults,” says Ramasamy. “We hope that this means our vaccine will help to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society, but further research will be needed before we can be sure.”

Key Background

With global Covid-19 cases now beyond the grim milestone of 55 million, the news of safe and reliable vaccines are welcome, especially when effective in some of the most at-risk groups of serious disease. While these findings are not conclusive, coming from early stage clinical trials, the optimism generated by the preliminary findings will be buoyed by the onrush of hope stemming from the vaccine successes of Pfizer and Moderna’s late stage clinical trials announced this week. Pfizer, in conjunction with BioNTech, have completed Phase 3 trials, finding their vaccine to be 95% effective at preventing disease. The companies intend to apply for emergency use approval in the U.S. Friday. Moderna announced similar findings Monday, though the trial is ongoing and that number liable to change.

Further Reading

Safety and immunogenicity of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine administered in a prime-boost regimen in young and old adults (COV002): a single-blind, randomised, controlled, phase 2/3 trial (The Lancet)

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