COVID-19 vaccine: the latest developments

A summary of research published in the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet

COVID-19 is a new disease and it is spreading rapidly. Researchers across the globe are racing to develop a vaccine to prevent people becoming ill. Vaccine development usually takes years, but researchers are working at extraordinary speed and hope to have a vaccine ready for use in the coming months.

There are currently 140 vaccines being developed by different scientists around the world; about 25 are in the later development stages and are being tested on people. Results from two of the major trials have recently been published.

Latest results from the University of Oxford trial

A vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford was tested on 1,077 people, and the results were published in July 2020. The study looked specifically at the safety of the vaccine and whether it could help the body to attack the virus. The Oxford trial is using a type of vaccine that has been used before. It works by injecting a small amount of a different, harmless virus that has been engineered by scientists so that it looks like coronavirus when it enters the body. The body can then learn how to attack it.

The results showed that the vaccine seemed to work and helped to produce lots of antibodies – substances which are produced in our blood to attack a virus when it enters the body. People in the study were also found to have produced lots of T-cells, which are also very important in defending our body from viruses.

The results also showed that there were no serious side-effects, however almost 1 in 5 people had a fever and more than 6 in 10 people reported a headache.

The results are promising and show that the vaccine is safe to give to people. However, at this stage, the study could not show whether the vaccine stops people getting ill or whether it can lessen the symptoms of COVID-19. Larger studies are now needed to test the vaccine further.

Read the full study: Safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: a preliminary report of a phase 1/2, single-blind, randomised controlled trial

Read more about how this vaccine works:

Latest results from the Moderna trial

A trial for a vaccine being developed in the USA has also published promising new findings in the last month. This vaccine is using a new technique that has not been used before in a vaccine of this kind.  In this type of vaccine, scientists create mRNA (a molecule that works with your DNA) that is the same as that in the virus. Once injected into the body, the mRNA creates substances which your immune system thinks is the virus. Your immune system can then learn to fight it off, without ever being exposed to the real virus.

Tests on 45 healthy adults revealed that the vaccine was safe and caused the desired response in the body. Results found large amounts of antibodies in the people who took part in the trial. The levels were similar to people who had recovered from COVID-19. There were no serious side effects reported, although more than half the people in the study reported fatigue, headache, chills, or pain where they were injected.

Tests will now be needed in larger numbers of people to look at this vaccine’s overall effectiveness.

Read the full study: An mRNA Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 — Preliminary Report

Read more on how this type of vaccine works: