MUSC holding trials for ‘highly effective’ COVID vaccine, AstraZeneca

MUSC holding trials for ‘highly effective’ COVID vaccine, AstraZeneca
MUSC professor of Medicine and Pediatrics Dr. Patrick Flume said they had more than 3,000 people sign up to participate in the trial, which got underway back in September. (Source: MUSC)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Back in September, the Medical University of South Carolina said they teamed up with AstraZeneca to facilitate test trials for their now promising vaccine.

The makers of AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed that their COVID-19 vaccine with Oxford University was up to 90% effective in preventing disease.

MUSC professor of Medicine and Pediatrics Dr. Patrick Flume said they had more than 3,000 people sign up to participate in the trial, which got underway back in September.

Flume said MUSC was able to enroll 126 people during the first week, but because of an adverse event in the United Kingdom, the study was put on hold. MUSC continues to enroll people in the vaccine trials. Flume said they are trying to enroll 30 to 40 people per day. To find out more about the trials and enroll, click here.

AstraZeneca says their trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month apart was 90% effective. The vaccine maker says a second regimen using two full doses one month apart was 62% effective. They say the combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70%.

AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage results for its potential COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna last week reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were almost 95% effective.

Flume says although there is a marked reduction in infection with the vaccines, there is more to the story.

“90% effectiveness does not mean that 90% won’t get it,” Flume says. “To get infected still requires sufficient exposure. So for those who get exposed, they have a much greater chance of getting infected without the vaccine. For those with the vaccine the risk is not zero. So keep the mask on.”

Flume also says there is not much of an experienced difference between 90% and 95%, and probably not even the 70% reported by AstraZeneca.

“All of [this] data [is] based on short term follow up after vaccine. Although the results are fantastic, we do not know how long there will be benefit,” Flume said. “That takes longer time in study. So, yes, we need to finish the studies. It would be terrible to stop now.”

Flume said it’s not surprising to see drugmakers moving so quickly through the late-stage of clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“You’re just trying to get to a certain number of COVID infections and the more people are getting infected, the faster you’re getting to that time point,” Flume said. “That’s why Pfizer released their first cut of data and then a week later came out with their second threshold. There’s a lot of infection happening out there and we may see even earlier results from the AstraZeneca U.S. study before you know it.”

Unlike many of its rivals, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine does not have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it far easier to distribute in developing countries.

Now that AstraZeneca has released its interim results, regulators must approve the vaccine before it can be widely distributed.

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