Dec. 11, 2020, 12:13 p.m. EST

AstraZeneca–Oxford COVID shot is ‘safe and effective,’ full trial data show

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By Lina Saigol, Jaimy Lee

The COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by drugmaker AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is safe and effective and protects against severe disease and hospitalization, according to a study showing the full data from a late-stage clinical trial.

The peer-reviewed study, published in medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday, showed average efficacy of 70.4% in a pooled analysis of interim data based on 11,636 volunteers in trials across the U.K. and Brazil.

The experimental vaccine’s efficacy was 62.1% for those given two full doses, but rose to 90% in a subgroup of trial participants who were given a half dose, then a full dose.

The 70% average efficacy rate is higher than what is needed to be authorized in the U.S., but is also significantly lower than the 94% and higher efficacy rates reported by biotech Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -2.01% and drugmaker Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -1.04% and its partner BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.79% for their COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Read: AstraZeneca defends dosing error in COVID-19 trial

U.S. study  of AstraZeneca’s vaccine involving around 30,000 volunteers is currently in progress, and should deliver data by late January.

AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said the drugmaker had begun submitting data to regulatory authorities around the world to seek early approval of the shot. “Our global supply chains are up and running, ready to quickly begin delivering hundreds of millions of doses on a global scale at no profit,” he said in a statement issued by the University of Oxford.

The drugmaker has pledged it will not make a profit on the vaccine for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations to sell the drug to low- and middle-income countries at the average cost of between $3 and $5 a dose.

Shares in AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -0.70% , which have risen 6.93% in the year to date, closed 0.047% down in London on Tuesday.

Prof. Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the clinical trial, said: “Today, we have published the interim analysis of the Phase III trial and show that this new vaccine has a good safety record and efficacy against the coronavirus.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the U.K. became the first country to embark on a mass immunization program, with National Health Service hospitals starting to administer 800,000 shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Read: World watches as first person receives Pfizer-BioNTech COVID shot

The AstraZeneca–Oxford vaccine can be refrigerated at normal conditions for at least six months and administered within existing health-care settings, making it easier to store and transport. That compares to the two-shot Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine that needs to be stored at  minus-70 degrees Celsius  (-94 degrees Fahrenheit).

The British drugmaker also said it was making “rapid progress” in manufacturing, with a capacity of up to 3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021 on a rolling basis, pending regulatory approval.

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