AstraZeneca looking to roll out jab for new Covid-19 variants by Autumn

11 February 2021, 14:25

AstraZeneca hopes to roll out a vaccine that is effective against new variants by May
AstraZeneca hopes to roll out a vaccine that is effective against new variants by May. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

A coronavirus vaccine that is effective against new variants could be rolled out by the Autumn, AstraZeneca has said.

The pharmaceuticals giant, which has produced a Covid vaccine in conjuncture with the University of Oxford, said clinical trials of a jab for variants would be starting this Spring.

The company also said that the current plan would be to start mass producing the new jab in six to nine months.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said there should be a drop in hospital admissions "very soon" as the effects of the UK's vaccine rollout start to be seen.

Mr Soriot said: "100 million doses in February means 100 million vaccinations, which means hundreds of thousands of severe infections avoided and it also means thousands of deaths that are avoided."

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"We're going to save thousands of lives and that's why we come to work every day as individuals," he added.

"Is it perfect? No it's not perfect, but it's great. Who else is making 100 million doses in February?"

AstraZeneca is on course to deliver 100 million doses around the world this month, with the company hoping to double this to 200 million a month by April.

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It comes after the news that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offers only limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant of coronavirus, according to research.

The news prompted South Africa to suspend its rollout of the jab.

But the company said early data from the study has shown the jab can protect against severe disease caused by the mutation.

The study, first reported by the Financial Times, into the E484K mutation involved some 2,000 people, most of whom were young and healthy.

"We do believe our vaccine could protect against severe disease, as neutralising antibody activity is equivalent to that of other Covid-19 vaccines that have demonstrated activity against more severe disease, particularly when the dosing interval is optimised to eight to 12 weeks," a spokesman reportedly said.

Earlier research indicated that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is effective at fighting the new UK coronavirus variant.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday: "I think we're going to have to get used to the idea of vaccinating and then revaccinating in the autumn, as we come to face these new variants."