A coronavirus vaccine being developed by scientists at Oxford University induces an immune response to the disease, the first phase of human trials has revealed.
Doses of the vaccine were given to 1,077 healthy adults aged between 18 and 55 in five UK hospitals in April and May as part of the phase one clinical trial and results – published in the Lancet journal on Monday – show they induced strong antibody and T-cell immune responses for up to 56 days after they were given.
T-cells are crucial for maintaining protection against the virus for years.
Scientists found the response could be even greater after a second dose.
Compared to a control group, who were given a meningitis vaccine, the COVID vaccine caused minor side effects more frequently, but those could be reduced by taking paracetamol. There were no serious adverse effects from the vaccine, the report said.
Professor Andrew Pollard, who is leading the study at the University of Oxford, said: “The immune system has two ways of finding and attacking pathogens – antibody and T cell responses.
“This vaccine is intended to induce both, so it can attack the virus when it’s circulating in the body, as well as attacking infected cells.
“We hope this means the immune system will remember the virus, so that our vaccine will protect people for an extended period.
“However, we need more research before we can confirm the vaccine effectively protects against SARS-CoV-2 infection, and for how long any protection lasts.”
Professor Sarah Gilbert, co-author of the study, said: “There is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the COVID-19 pandemic, but these early results hold promise.
“As well as continuing to test our vaccine in phase 3 trials, we need to learn more about the virus – for example, we still do not know how strong an immune response we need to provoke to effectively protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“If our vaccine is effective, it is a promising option as these types of vaccine can be manufactured at large scale.”
Although these results are from phase one of the trials, phase two testing is already under way in the UK and phase three testing on volunteers in Brazil is also taking place.
It comes after the UK government secured early access to 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses – including 30 million of one being developed by BioNTech and Pfizer – through partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.