New study shows that the covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca does not only immunize people from serious illness and death but also considerably slows the transmission of the virus.
The study by researchers at the University of Oxford is the first to document evidence that the vaccine can reduce transmission of the virus. This study lays emphasis on the importance of mass vaccination as a weapon to fight this pandemic.
Researchers at the University of Oxford assessed the transmission effect by swabbing participants every week trying to detect signs of the virus. It has been found that if there is no virus present, even if someone is infected, it cannot be spread. And for those vaccinated, they discovered a 67 percent reduction in positive swabs.
The vaccine is found to be more effective when the interval between the two injections was longer than the prescribed four-week gap. The Oxford and AstraZeneca researchers say that the vaccine efficacy rose from 54.9% with an interval of fewer than six weeks to 82.4% when spaced 12 or more weeks apart.
Researchers report that a vaccination strategy that spaces out doses by three months “may be the optimal for rollout of a pandemic vaccine when supplies are limited in the short term”.
These results, from the Oxford and AstraZeneca study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed also found that the vaccine could possibly cut transmissions by nearly two thirds.
Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, and co-author of the study explained that these new data support the policy recommendation and an important verification of the interim data used to grant the vaccine emergency use authorization.
“These new data provide important verification of the interim data that was used by more than 25 regulators including the MHRA and EMA to grant the vaccine emergency use authorization.
“It also supports the policy recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for a 12-week prime-boost interval, as they look for the optimal approach to roll out, and reassures us that people are protected from 22 days after a single dose of the vaccine.” he said.
Though this study is reassuring as to the efficacy of the vaccines, in an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology said: “While this would be extremely welcome news, we do need more data before this can be confirmed and so it’s important that we all still continue to follow social distancing guidance after we have been vaccinated.”
Mauritius rolling out the AstraZeneca vaccine
Having rolled out its vaccination campaign, this is reassuring as Mauritius has been making use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Its first batch coming from India as aid contained 100,000 vaccines that are currently being used to vaccinate the front-liners which consists of doctors working in quarantine centers, hospitals, treatment centers, and other extensions treating covid-19 patients. The front-liners also consist of people who are directly exposed to the virus such as airport workers and port workers.
The next batch is meant to arrive before the 15th of February under the Covax Facility. However, details about this next batch of vaccines are yet to be announced.
Mauritius registered 584 cases of covid-19 and 10 deaths to date. The number of active cases currently amounts to 33 cases while 1290 people are actually in quarantine facilities.
A vaccine for the new variant
Oxford University and AstrZeneca has also announced, 3rd Feb 2021, that they are planning to develop a new vaccine to tackle the new variants of the Covid-19.
In a media briefing hosted by AstraZeneca, Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group, says the vaccine should be ready before the end of 2021.
Prof. Pollard said: “I think the actual work on designing a new vaccine is very, very quick because it’s essentially just switching out the genetic sequence for the spike protein, for the updated variants.
The executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, Mene Pangalos, says: “our ambition is to be ready for the next round of immunisations that may be necessary as we go into next winter. That’s what we’re aiming for.”