Coronavirus: AstraZeneca Vaccine Shows Encouraging Results in Older People

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An AstraZeneca plant in Boulder, Colorado

EPIDEMIC: The immune response in elderly patients is said to be identical to that elicited in young people, according to preliminary results to be confirmed in phase 3

Hope in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said their vaccine against the coronavirus Covid-19 caused a good immune response in the elderly, particularly at risk from the virus. New results which confirm announcements already made in October.

However, these intermediate results relate to a less advanced stage of development (called phase 2) than those which have been the subject of spectacular announcements over the past ten days by the manufacturers BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna. Both have assured that their vaccine is 95% and 94.5% effective based on the results of the last stage of clinical trials (phase 3). These announcements have not yet been the subject of a detailed publication in a scientific journal.

A population at risk

The results of phase 2 of the AstraZeneca / University of Oxford project are published Thursday by the medical journal The Lancet. Main lesson: this vaccine provokes in the oldest subjects (over 56 years) an immune response identical to that which it triggers in the youngest (18 to 55 years).

This observation is important, because as The Lancet reminds us, “older adults have a tenfold risk of developing a severe form of the coronavirus Covid-19, and it is, therefore, essential that a vaccine intended to fight this disease is effective in this population group ”. “The immune response triggered by vaccines is often weaker in older adults because the immune system gradually weakens over time,” said Prof. Andrew Pollard, one of the trial managers for the University of Oxford.

Results to be confirmed

The researchers note, however, a limit to their study. The average age in the oldest group of participants was 73 to 74 years old and few of them had any health problems. “It may therefore be that they are not representative of the entire elderly population, including people who live in special institutions or over 80 years,” notes The Lancet.

These results will therefore have to be “confirmed within a larger sample of volunteers, including elderly people suffering from health problems”: this is the aim of the phase 3 trials underway for this vaccine, which covers thousands of people.

Phase 2 involved 560 participants (160 aged 18 to 55, 160 from 56 to 59 and 240 over 70). They had been divided into several groups where they were given either the vaccine or another product, in order to be able to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of this one. For its part, the Pfizer / BioNTech alliance assured Wednesday that its own vaccine was effective in people over 65 years old according to the phase 3 results, which has yet to be confirmed by their publication.

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