NEW mutant-strain killing Covid jabs will be ready to be rolled out in autumn, the Oxford vaccine boss said today.
Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said: “Work is very quick [on adapting jabs for mutations]. Then there’s manufacturing to do, and a small scale study.
A woman is given the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab in WadebridgeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
“All of that can be completed in a very short period of time, and the autumn is really the timing for having new vaccines available for use.”
It comes after community spread of three concerning mutations have been detected in the UK.
The UK’s Kent Covid strain has acquired a mutation similar to the South African variant – which ministers are racing to contain an outbreak of – and could resist jabs, official reports revealed.
Public Health England have also detected 11 cases in Bristol where the Kent variant has gained the E484K mutation, which helps the virus to “escape” immune response.
A cluster of 32 cases in Liverpool also have the same mutation but relate to the original strain of coronavirus that has been around since the start of the pandemic, from Wuhan.
Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, added the firm was working on vaccines against variants and wanted to have them ready “as rapidly as possible”.
He said: “We’re working very hard and we’re already talking about not just the variants that we have … but also the clinical studies that we need to run.
“We’re very much aiming to try and have something ready by the autumn. So, this year.”
Scientists at Oxford University have revealed Britain’s jabs rollout could have already begun to stop the virus spreading.
They found there was a 67 per cent drop in positive swabs among those already vaccinated.
It means those given the jab are not only less likely to get severe disease or die, but also have some protection against catching the virus and passing it on to others.
It comes as 9,646,715 Brits have already had their first dose of a Covid vaccine in the ambitious rollout.
Researchers published their latest findings in Preprints with The Lancet, on Tuesday.
The experts also revealed just one jab gives 76 per cent protection for three months.
They said it “supports the policy” of leaving a 12-week gap between the first and second dose adopted by the UK Government.
Although the data from clinical trials had shown the Oxford jab was effective at cutting the risk of severe Covid, it hasn’t become clear until now whether it also reduces transmission – a crucial piece of the puzzle.
Dr Pollard told BBC Radio 4 Today that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab could have a “huge impact” on transmission.
The extent to which the vaccines impact transmission of the virus plays into how quickly the UK can come out of lockdowns.
But Dr Pollard admitted the data – which studied people vaccinated up until December 7 – was drawn before the new variants emerged.
Even if the virus adapts so it can continue to transmit, “that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection against severe disease”, Dr Pollard said.
The study also showed the vaccines are actually more effective with longer intervals between doses.
A single dose of the vaccine is 76 per cent effective from 22 to up to 90 days post-vaccination.
This drops to 54.9 per cent when the second dose is given less than six weeks later.
But the efficacy soars to 82.4 per cent when each injection is spaced 12 or more weeks apart.