Older adults respond well to the Oxford Covid vaccine - and its after effects are mild

The Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford prompts a strong immune response in older adults, according to early findings.

A total of 560 healthy adults took part in the phase two clinical trials of the vaccine. Participants were given either two doses of the vaccine, or a placebo.

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Researchers say that the phase two findings are “encouraging.” The vaccine will continue to be tested in larger phase three trials, in order to determine whether it prevents people from developing Covid-19. Results from this stage are expected in the coming weeks.

‘Well tolerated in those over 55’

According to the authors of the Oxford vaccine findings, “volunteers in the trial demonstrate similar neutralising antibody titres, and T cell responses across all three age groups (18-55, 56-79, and 70+).”

The report also adds that no adverse health problems were reported during these trials.

Head of the Oxford vaccine trial team, Professor Andrew Pollard, said that he is “absolutely delighted” with the latest trial results, which suggests that the vaccine produces a strong immune response in older adults.

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Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he said, “The other thing we found which I think is really important is the vaccine is really well tolerated in those who are over 55.

“We do know with these vaccines that adults tend to feel a bit ropey the day after they have been vaccinated… but that was very, very much less, particularly in those who are over 70.

“And that’s absolutely great news because if it’s well tolerated, that’s going to really help with rollout should we be able to show that the vaccine actually works.”

Health Secretary Matt Hanacock tweeted of the news, “There is still much work to be done, but this is a really encouraging set of findings from the @UniofOxford and @AstraZeneca vaccine.”

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‘Protecting the most vulnerable’

Dr Angela Minassian, an investigator at the University of Oxford and honorary consultant in infectious diseases, said, “Inducing robust immune responses in older adults has been a long standing challenge in human vaccine research.

“To show this vaccine technology is able to induce these responses, in the age group most at risk from severe Covid-19 disease, offers hope that vaccine efficacy will be similar in younger and older adults.”

Dr Maheshi Ramasamy, an investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group, said, “We were pleased to see that our vaccine was not only well tolerated in older adults, but also stimulated similar immune responses to those seen in younger volunteers.

“The next step will be to see if this translates to protection from the disease itself.”

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Dr Ramasamy explained that the antibody and T-cell responses seen in older people taking part in the study is “encouraging.”

“The populations at greatest risk of serious Covid-19 disease include people with existing health conditions and older adults,” she explained.

“We hope that this means our vaccine will help protect some of the most vulnerable people in society, but further research will be needed before we can be sure,” Dr Ramasamy explained.

100 million doses

The UK has already ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, which is manufactured by AstaZeneca, as well as 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and five million of the Moderna vaccine.

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These three vaccines have already reported optimistic preliminary data from phase three trials, with the Pfizer-BioNTech results suggesting that 94 per cent of over 65s could be protected from the Covid-19 virus after receiving it.

Dr Michael Tildesley, who sits on a SAGE sub-group, said that the vaccine is “going to hopefully be one of the key game changers” because the number of doses acquired by the government will allow the UK to “hopefully reach that magic herd immunity.”