AstraZeneca Aims to Have Updated Oxford Vaccine for Variants by Autumn

February 3, 2021 Updated: February 3, 2021

AstraZeneca and Oxford University aim to have an updated vaccine to address the different CCP virus variants by the autumn, according to an executive for the UK-based drugmaker.

Research chief Mene Pangalos said they wanted a next-generation vaccine “as rapidly as possible” to tackle new variants of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly called the novel coronavirus.

“We’re very much aiming to try and have something ready by the autumn, so this year,” said Pangalos.

That time-frame includes lab work and clinical studies.

Pangalos disclosed the goal on the same day AstraZeneca published research that showed their vaccine can reduce transmission by 67 percent.

The paper, which is still under review, also found that just one dose of the vaccine provided 100 percent protection from severe symptoms of the disease.

The UK has pitted one of the highest levels of vaccinations in the world against one of the highest levels of infections just as a new variant drove death rates to record levels.

The number of vaccinations in the UK today passed the 10 million mark, covering 15 percent of the population.

Vaccines are still effective against the UK variant, although a little less than with the original variant.

Another variant from South Africa is thought to be even more resistant to vaccines, although health officials stress that current vaccines still offer protection against it.

The emergence of community transmission cases of that South Africa variant in various places in England sparked the rollout of localized surge testing earlier this week.

Meanwhile, a spin-off mutation of the UK variant has emerged with the same potentially vaccine-hindering protein structure as the South African and Brazilian variants, according to English health officials.

Public Health England on Feb. 1 reported (pdf) that sample testing has revealed that a key mutation in the South African and Brazilian variants, called E484K, was found in a “limited number” of cases in England.

Out of a total sample of 214,159 cases, analysed on Jan. 26, only 11 were identified as UK variant with the E484K change.

Despite the low numbers, scientists say that the development is concerning.

The UK has been a world-leader in genomic sequencing of the CCP virus, meaning that it may be picking up on changes occurring globally rather than revealing phenomena unique to the UK.

“The detection of the E484K mutation in the ‘Kent’ variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus is of concern, but ultimately no surprise,” Dr. Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said.

Novavax recently announced that initial trials showed its vaccine was 89 percent effective in the UK, where the more transmissible strain originating in Kent is now predominant. A less extensive trial in South Africa—where the VOC-202012/02 variant is dominant—suggested effectiveness of around 60 percent.

Reuters contributed to this report

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey