Oxford coronavirus vaccine produces strong immune response in older adults

PICS: PA Graphics / Sean Elias

Older adults should be a priority for immunisation, according to the University team.

Older adults taking part in the Oxford Uni vaccine study are showing a similar immune response to younger adults.

We are still waiting for news on how effective the vaccine is in preventing Covid 19, but the Oxford University experts say this new data 'offers hope' that the efficacy of the Oxford vaccine will be similar in younger and older adults.

Oxford's ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 coronavirus vaccine has been shown to trigger a robust immune response in healthy adults aged 56-69 and those over 70 years of age.

The data, published today in The Lancet, suggest that one of the groups most vulnerable to serious illness, and death from COVID-19, could build immunity.

Older adults have been shown to be at higher risk from COVID-19 and 'should be considered to be a priority for immunisation should any effective vaccine be developed for the disease', according to the Oxford team.

Reporting on data from a Phase II trial, the authors write that volunteers in the trial demonstrate similar neutralising antibody titres, and T cell responses across all three age groups (18-55, 56-79, and 70+).

Dr Maheshi Ramasamy, Investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group and Consultant Physician said: 'Older adults are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination, because they are at increased risk of severe disease, but we know that they tend to have poorer vaccine responses.'

'We were pleased to see that our vaccine was not only well tolerated in older adults; it also stimulated similar immune responses to those seen in younger volunteers. The next step will be to see if this translates into protection from the disease itself.'

Responding to the news, Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “There is still much work to be done, but this is a really encouraging set of findings from the @UniofOxford and @AstraZeneca vaccine.”

For most vaccines, older adults do not exhibit as strong a response as younger adults, and vaccine-induced antibodies commonly display a lower protective capacity.

The data reported today is described as 'promising' as it shows that the older individuals in this study, who are more prone to serious illness and death from COVID-19, are showing a similar immune response to younger adults.

Dr Angela Minassian, Investigator at the University of Oxford and Honorary Consultant in Infectious Diseases said: 'Inducing robust immune responses in older adults has been a long-standing challenge in human vaccine research.

'To show this vaccine technology is able to induce these responses, in the age group most at risk from severe COVID-19 disease, offers hope that vaccine efficacy will be similar in younger and older adults'.

The Phase III trials of the Oxford vaccine are ongoing, with early efficacy readings expected in the coming weeks.

Professor Andrew Pollard, the head of Oxford’s vaccine trial team, said there is “no competition” between different vaccines because “we need multiple vaccines to be successful”.

He added that the Oxford vaccine, which studies suggest would not need to be kept at temperatures as low as those made by Pfizer and Moderna, is being developed for distribution “everywhere” including places with limited infrastructure for ultra-cold storage.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We’re really looking globally, we want to be able to get to every corner of the world if indeed the vaccine is shown to work.

“The thing that matters with vaccines is the impact it can have, and that is, can you get it to people and are they being vaccinated, so until you’ve got high coverage and you’re able to prevent the disease in those who are most vulnerable, we won’t get there.

“That’s why we need multiple vaccines to be successful. It’s fantastic news that Pfizer and Moderna have got there, and clearly will be getting themselves prepared for their regulatory submissions.

“But there’s no competition between them and the other vaccines, we need all of them to be successful, because we’ve got a lot of people to protect all around the globe.”

 

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