COVID-19: Vaccines against new variants should be ready by October

·1-min read

Vaccines against new variants of coronavirus should be ready by October, according to the team behind the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group, said work on designing a new jab could be a quick process.

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Studies have shown that variants of COVID-19 that have the E484K mutation could reduce the efficacy of vaccines, but they are still expected to provide good protection against illness and severe disease.

"I think the actual work on designing a new vaccine is very, very quick because it's essentially just switching out the genetic sequence for the spike protein, for the updated variants," Professor Pollard told a media briefing held by AstraZeneca.

"And then there's manufacturing to do and then a small-scale study.

"So all of that can be completed in a very short period of time, and the autumn is really the timing for having new vaccines available for use rather than for having the clinical trials run."

Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, said: "Our ambition is to be ready for the next round of immunisations that may be necessary as we go into next winter. That's what we're aiming for."

He continued: "We're very much aiming to try and have something ready by the autumn. So, this year."

It comes after research published on Monday found that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine may have a "substantial effect" on transmission of the virus.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, also found that a three-month gap between doses does not lower protection.