LONDON – AstraZeneca mentioned Thursday it expects to have a brand new model of its COVID-19 vaccine prepared to be used by this autumn as drugmakers reply to considerations about rising variants of the illness that could be extra transmissible or immune to present vaccines.
The Anglo-Swedish firm, which makes a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, mentioned it’s working with the college’s scientists to adapt the shot to fight new variants. Researchers started this work months in the past when the variants have been first detected, mentioned Mene Pangalos, head of biopharmaceuticals analysis for AstraZeneca.
“We’re shifting quick and we’ve obtained quite a few variant variations within the works that we are going to be choosing from as we transfer into the clinic,” Pangalos mentioned on a convention name with reporters.
The feedback got here as CEO Pascal Soriot defended the corporate’s efforts to develop and ramp up manufacturing of the shot amid criticism from the European Union and a preliminary research that raised considerations concerning the vaccine’s means to fight a variant of COVID-19 first found in South Africa.
While rollout of the vaccine hasn’t been excellent, regulators in quite a few international locations have discovered the vaccine to be secure and efficient, and AstraZeneca will produce 100 million doses this month, Soriot mentioned. Only a handful of vaccines have been licensed for widespread use out of a whole bunch that started growth a yr in the past, he famous.
“One hundred million doses in February means 100 million vaccinations, which implies a whole bunch of 1000’s of extreme infections which might be prevented, and it additionally means 1000’s of deaths which might be prevented,” Soriot mentioned.
The EU final month sparred with AstraZeneca after the corporate lower preliminary deliveries of the vaccine to the bloc due to manufacturing issues.
Although the European Medicines Agency accepted the AstraZeneca vaccine to be used by everybody over 18, some European international locations, together with France and Germany, have beneficial that individuals over 65 not obtain the shot on account of restricted information on its effectiveness in older folks.
Just this week, researchers launched preliminary outcomes from a small-scale research in South Africa that discovered that the vaccine did little to forestall delicate to reasonable circumstances of the illness brought on by the variant prevalent within the nation. The research additionally seemed solely at wholesome younger folks.
But Soriot confused that the vaccine is excellent at stopping extreme illness and loss of life, which is a very powerful aim.
“We might get misplaced in quite a lot of particulars about this and that, however it’s a must to take a look at the massive image,” Soriot mentioned. “And the massive image is right now we’ve got a vaccine that has been accepted by a number of necessary regulators, all these scientific questions have been adjudicated by the regulators. … This month we’re going to fabricate 100 million doses, in April 200 million doses.”