Great Britain

Results from Oxford vaccine are a fantastic step forward in fighting Covid

THE results from Oxford University/Vaccitech and AstraZeneca are a fantastic step forward. This UK-designed vaccine is lower-cost and easier-to-deliver than many others, which is good news right around the globe. 

I’d like to congratulate the team at the University of Oxford for their brilliant work, and thank all of the volunteers who took part in the trials worldwide for their contributions to this very important project.

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Over 24,000 individuals have so far played their part in getting this vaccine one step closer to patients in the UK and many other places around the world, and I am grateful to every one of them.

Several promising results have come out over the last two weeks; first Pfizer’s vaccine, then Moderna’s and now Oxford/AstraZeneca’s.

I know some Sun readers are wondering how to compare the different vaccines. This is harder to do that it might at first seem.

The headline number given for a vaccine’s effectiveness always changes as the final pieces of evidence come together, and even then the real value always lies within a range of confidence.

We also don’t yet know from the trials how long protection will last – let’s face it these trials are only just finishing now, so we only know about short-term protection at this stage.

A vaccine offering the best short term protection will not necessarily be the one that offers the best long term protection. Also the percentage effectiveness refers to effectiveness at stopping infections with symptoms, in other words illness, because this is what the trials measure.

But the impact of a vaccine on transmission is also very important – for that we need to know if vaccines stop infections that don’t give symptoms, and that will take a while longer to work out.

Another important thing to look at is the effect of the vaccine on hospitalisation – vitally important to protect our NHS. The interim data for Oxford/AstraZeneca so far shows no hospitalisations at all in the group that received the vaccine, which is very good news.

As you can see there are many different features of a vaccine that are important. That is why it’s not right, or indeed possible, to think of any vaccine as better than another based on just one feature.

As we get more data, we will begin to understand the vaccines in more detail and how best to use them to save the most lives. The key thing to remember is that any safe vaccine that is proven to be effective is one that could save lives and our main goal here is to do exactly that - save lives.

If the choice is between no protection and some protection it is clear to me which is better if you are at risk from this horrible disease.

Remember that none of these vaccines will be rolled out across the country until our independent medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has ensured that vaccines have passed its strict assessments on safety, effectiveness and quality.

As we wait for vaccines this is a very important time. I urge you all to keep following the rules to keep you and your loved ones safe, in the knowledge that there could be vaccine on the way for them.

And, in turn, after the first few months of 2021 when these vaccines will hopefully have been widely rolled out to vulnerable patients, they could help us on the way to a much more normal future.

Oxford Vaccine Group Director, Professor Andrew Pollard, explains why there are two figures for coronavirus jab effectiveness

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