Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said it could take between six to nine months to produce Covid-19 vaccines that are effective against new variants of the virus.
A six-month turnaround for an updated vaccine would represent a vast improvement over the previous development timeline, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
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“Work on the variants hasn’t started today, it started weeks and months ago, as soon as those new variants were identified and… we are aiming to be in the clinic in the spring, with next-generation vaccines for the new variants,” said Sir Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice-President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca.
Pangalos added that the jabs could be available to the public by the autumn, assuming the regulatory bodies are satisfied with using studies into the body’s immune response to the vaccine as the route to approval.
The company’s vaccine developed jointly with the University of Oxford, remains effective against the original virus and at least one variant, first discovered in Kent, England. But preliminary findings in a small-scale trial prompted South Africa to limit its use while it ascertains its efficacy against the variant that emerged there, the report said.
A number of Covid vaccines have shown lower efficacy in trials where the South Africa variant predominates — earlier this week preliminary trials revealed the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab provided little protection against mild to moderate infection, although it is still expected to protect against severe disease and death.
It has recently emerged that some cases of the Kent variant have a mutation also found in the South African variant, a development that scientists have cautioned needs to be taken seriously, not least since the mutation — known as E484K — has been linked to the ability for the South African variant to evade protection offered by some current Covid vaccines, the report said.
Panaglos said tests need to be carried out on the Kent variant with the E484K mutation. (IANS)