Oxford’s Coronavirus Vaccine Shows Promise
Early results suggest the vaccine did not prompt any serious side effects and elicited an immune response
An experimental Covid-19 vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. triggered an immune response in healthy adults and appears to have no dangerous side effects, according to research published Monday in the scientific journal The Lancet.
The study included 1,077 healthy people aged 18 to 55, about half of whom received the experimental Covid-19 vaccine. Ten of those people received two doses. The other half, a control group, received a meningitis vaccine that’s already on the market.
The Covid-19 vaccine seemed to spur an immune response, and in 32 out of 35 people, investigators found evidence of so-called “neutralizing” antibodies. These special antibodies are believed to be protective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They were still detectable about two months after one dose of the vaccine. Antibody levels were even higher in the ten participants who received a booster shot 28 days after the first one. It’s not known how long these antibodies will stick around in the blood or whether they can effectively block infection.
We don’t know yet how many of the other 508 people who received the coronavirus vaccine made neutralizing antibodies. The researchers reported on just a small group that had been tested for them. Confirming the presence of neutralizing antibodies is slower and more difficult than conducting other antibody tests, so it’s possible that researchers have not yet tested everyone in the trial.
“There is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the Covid-19 pandemic,” co-author Sarah Gilbert, PhD, a professor of virology at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “We still do not know how strong an immune response we need to provoke to effectively protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
The vaccine also prompted another kind of immune response, involving T cells — white blood cells that might be also important in Covid-19 immunity. These specialized immune cells are capable of seeking out and destroying cells infected with SARS-CoV-2. Experts say that a combination of…