AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine 90% effective, coming to Israel soon

Israel is expected to receive 10 million doses of the vaccine.

The logo of AstraZeneca is seen on medication packages in a pharmacy in London (photo credit: REUTERS)
The logo of AstraZeneca is seen on medication packages in a pharmacy in London
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AstraZeneca said on Monday its vaccine for the novel coronavirus, developed along with the University of Oxford, could be around 90% effective under a single dose regimen.
This data comes on the heels of an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday that Israel and the British pharmaceutical company have come to an agreement that would supply Israel with 10 million doses of the vaccine – enough to inoculate 5 million people.
Once signed, this agreement will mark the largest known amount of vaccines from any one company to be sold to Israel.
According to a joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry, Israel will receive the vaccine, if successful, as part of the company’s not-for-profit program. For the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, AstraZeneca is using all vaccine sales proceeds to cover the costs of production and distribution exclusively.
“The vaccine’s simple supply chain and our nonprofit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval,” Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, said Sunday.
The initial supply of the vaccine is expected to arrive in Israel in May 2021, subject to European, American and Israeli approval.
AstraZeneca is expected to have 200 million doses ready by the end of 2020, explained Pam Cheng, AstraZeneca operations executive, during a Sunday briefing. She said that another 700 million are expected to be ready globally by the end of first quarter 2021.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the AstraZeneca vaccine does not have to be stored in the freezer but can be refrigerated.
The British drugmaker’s preliminary trial results mark a fresh breakthrough in the fight against a pandemic that has killed nearly 1.4 million people and roiled the global economy.
“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” Soriot said in a statement.
“The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by SARS-CoV-2,” said Prof. Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that: “We hope to be able to start vaccinating next month.”
In an interview with BBC TV he added, “The bulk of the vaccine rollout program will be in January, February, March.”
Specifically, the vaccine candidate is called AZD122. The interim analysis is based on clinical trials held in the UK and Brazil. No hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease were reported in participants receiving the vaccine. In addition, no serious safety events related to the vaccine were confirmed.
There were a total of 131 COVID-19 cases in the interim analysis, the company reported.
Single dosing regimen showed vaccine efficacy of 90% when AZD1222 was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart, and another dosing regimen showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart. The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70%.
“The reported efficacy of 70% is an interim measure and as more data accrue we will get a better idea of the protection it affords,” said Peter Hobby, a professor of emerging and infectious diseases and global heat at the University of Oxford, in a briefing on Sunday. “Importantly, from what we have heard, the vaccine seems to prevent infection – not just disease. This is important, as the vaccine could reduce the spread of the virus as well as protect the most vulnerable from severe disease.”
Soriot added on Sunday that the lower first dose meant more people can be vaccinated faster – “a really big plus.”
The company said that it will now immediately prepare regulatory submission of the data to authorities around the world. It will also seek “Emergency Use Listing” from the World Health Organization.
At the same time, the Phase III clinical trials will continue in the US, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya and Latin America, the company said, with planned trials in other European and Asian countries. In total, the Phase III trial will analyze 60,000 volunteers.
AZD1222 was created through a partnership between the University of Oxford and its spin-out company, Vaccitech. A release explains that the vaccine "uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector based on a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees and contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack the virus if a person later contracts its."
SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name for the novel coronavirus.
Earlier this month, Israel signed an agreement with Pfizer to receive eight million doses of its vaccine candidate, which recently completed its Phase III human trials.
Israel also has contracts with Moderna Inc. for an undisclosed number of doses, and with Arcturus for four million doses.
On Sunday, Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein confirmed in different statements that the country is continuing dialogue with other vaccine developers and plans to sign additional contracts in the coming days or weeks.