Britain’s Oxford University said on Friday its researchers behind the joint AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine had found it to be effective against the UK virus variant now dominant across the country.
The university, which developed the jab with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm, said an ongoing assessment of its effectiveness showed that it has “similar efficacy” to other coronavirus strains.
“Data from our trials… in the United Kingdom indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the novel variant,” said Andrew Pollard, co-chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial.
The analysis, which relied on samples taken between October and mid-January, also indicated the jab reduces “duration of shedding and viral load”, which may translate into reduced virus transmission, the university said.
The preliminary findings, which still need to be peer reviewed, are the first to report on the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against new variants, it noted.
The more contagious British virus variant, which first emerged in southeast England in late September, has since become the most common strain detected in new UK infections, and spread to scores of other countries.
However, it is less clear how well the vaccines developed so far will work against several other variants that have emerged around the world, in particular a strain from South Africa that is causing concern.
Oxford said vaccine researchers are looking at ways to modify existing inoculations “quickly and simply” to protect against new variants.
“We have always expected that as the pandemic continues, new variants will begin to become dominant amongst the viruses that are circulating and that eventually a new version of the vaccine… would be required,” said Sarah Gilbert, co-chief investigator of the Oxford trial.
“We are working with AstraZeneca to optimise the pipeline required for a strain change should one become necessary.”
AstraZeneca and Costa Rica
Costa Rica has purchased 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, enough for 500,000 people. In addition, the country will begin receiving AstraZeneca doses through the Covax mechanism later this month.
While Costa Rica hasn’t yet approved the vaccine, it is expected to homologate the emergency-use authorization issued by other regulatory bodies.
In December, Costa Rica began administering the Pfizer/BioNTech formula. In that case, Costa Rican authorities approved the Pfizer/BioNTech drug based on the emergency-use authorization granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Costa Rica hopes to vaccinate 3 million people by the end of 2021. This would comprise 80% of its adult population, including everyone with known Covid risk factors.
Costa Rica vaccine priority
The National Commission of Vaccination and Epidemiology, part of the Health Ministry, has indicated the priority for vaccination will be as follows:
- First group: Staff and residents at retirement or nursing homes.First responders, including health personnel.
- Second group: Costa Rica’s older population, defined here as those ages 58 and up. It is required to demonstrate residency with a cédula or DIMEX.
- Third group: People from 18-58 with risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, kidney disease and obesity, among others.
- Fourth group: Teachers and other staff within the Education Ministry (MEP) or private schools. Imprisoned people and judicial staff. Workers for the 911 service.
- Fifth group: Health science students and related technicians in clinical fields. People ages 40-57 without any of the aforementioned risk factors but whose work puts them in contact with others. This includes laborers in agriculture, construction, service industries, etc.
The Caja will contact individuals to schedule their coronavirus vaccine. Those who fall into priority groups should call their local EBAIS (public community health clinic) to register and ensure their contact information is current.