AstraZeneca & Oxford start work on Covid vaccine targeting Omicron variant


Sandy Douglas, a research group leader at Oxford, said together with AstraZeneca, they had taken ‘preliminary steps in producing an updated vaccine in case it is needed

Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started work on a targeted Omicron vaccine
Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started work on a targeted Omicron vaccine

Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started work to produce a version of their coronavirus vaccine targeting the Omicron variant.

The news comes after 129 people were hospitalised with the variant and another 14 deaths caused by the strain in the 24 hours before 6pm on Monday.

Yesterday, officials announced a total of 45,145 variant cases had been detected in Britain – but the real figure is thought to be far higher.

Sandy Douglas, a research group leader at Oxford, said together with AstraZeneca, they had taken “preliminary steps in producing an updated vaccine in case it is needed,” just like they had with previous variants of concern.

A two-shot course of widely-used vaccines is believed to provide a smaller amount of antibodies against Omicron than for previous variants
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AFP via Getty Images)

“Adenovirus-based vaccines [such as that made by Oxford/AstraZeneca] could in principle be used to respond to any new variant more rapidly than some may previously have realised,” he told the Financial Times.

“[They have] really important advantages, especially where need and logistical challenges are greatest.”

AstraZeneca did not comment on the development.

According to a study released in The Lancet medical journal earlier this week, protection given by two doses of the AstraZeneca shot began to wane three months after full vaccination, including against severe disease.

Evidence that has emerged from elsewhere suggests a two-shot course of widely-used vaccines provides a smaller amount of antibodies against Omicron than for previous variants.

A third mRNA shot can increase that level, studies have suggested.

Though it is not clear what this means in terms of effectiveness, global health authorities have expressed concern at the unknown, worried that current shots may offer less protection against the new strain.

The AstraZeneca was widely administered earlier in the year throughout the UK and the EU, though countries restricted its use following this roll out after the emergence of a rare side effect involving blood clots.

Through their partnership, Oxford and AstraZeneca have delivered more than 2bn doses globally, the majority of which have been in poorer nations.

Earlier this year, Oxford conducted studies on a Beta-targeted vaccine, after studies showed it had minimal efficacy against milder disease caused by that strain.

Global health authorities, such as European Medicines Agency head Emer Cooke, have warned that it is currently unknown, and could remain unknown for some time, whether a vaccine for the recently discovered strain will be needed.

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www.mirror.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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