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Southampton volunteers help demonstrate up to 90% protection from Oxford COVID-19 vaccine

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

The people of Southampton made a major contribution to data showing that a University of Oxford-developed COVID-19 vaccine could protect between 70% and 90% of the population, depending on the dose pattern used.

The trial shows the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine has an average effectiveness of 70%. However, this is the average of results from two different dosing patterns – two higher dose injections showing 62% protection, and one lower-dose jab followed later by a higher dose providing 90% protection.

Importantly, no one who received the COVID-19 vaccine at any dose developed severe COVID-19 symptoms, indicating that even for those who it doesn’t protect from infection, it might protect from the diseases’ damaging effects. The initial data also shows that the vaccine may have a role in stopping transmission of COVID by people without symptoms.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also relatively cheap to produce in large quantities, and can be stored at fridge temperature, which makes it easier to distribute across the NHS and globally.

The UK government has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, enough to immunise 50 million people, or even more if the schedule using the lower dose first is recommended by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Southampton volunteers vital

More than 20,000 volunteers were involved in the trial - half in the UK, half in Brazil.

In Southampton, 240 of the city’s over 70s stepped up to provide all of the data showing the initial safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in their higher-risk age group, as reported in the medical journal The Lancet last week.

Overall, in the large phase 3 trial there were 30 cases of COVID-19 in people who had two doses of the vaccine, and 101 cases in people who received the meningitis vaccine injection (the control).

“We want to say a massive thank you to the people of Southampton and Hampshire who have joined us and contributed to a way out of this pandemic, despite the anxieties and uncertainties of the situation,” comments Professor Saul Faust, trial lead for Southampton and Director of NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility.

“Each time we have opened a new phase of the Oxford Vaccine trial or trials of other COVID vaccines, we have been overwhelmed by the response – it’s been fantastic for us in the NHS to work with our city and region to find a way out.”

“We still need to do further work on this and other vaccines in development, to give us the best range of vaccination options, and the best ways of using each vaccine,” he adds.

“I’d encourage everybody to sign up to the NHS vaccine registry to hear about opportunities to be part of this research – as this trial shows, it’s not as simple as testing different vaccines – how and in who each one is used can make a big difference.”

You can sign up to the NHS vaccine registry to be contacted about taking part in COVID-19 vaccine studies happening in the UK, including those in Southampton.

How does the vaccine work?

The vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.

This has been combined with genes that make ‘spike protein’ from the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2), which plays an essential role in the infection pathway of the virus.

The intention is that the immune system responds to the vaccine as if it is coronavirus, providing future protection if the person later catches the virus.

“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial at Oxford.

“Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply.”

Today’s announcement is only possible thanks to the many volunteers in our trial, and the hard working and talented team of researchers based around the world.”

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