The World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020. Even before then, scientists around the world had started work on a potential vaccine.
The Oxford vaccine is based on decades of in-depth research, supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
It has been shown to be effective, safe, easily distributed and administered. It will be available on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic.
The Oxford team
The Oxford COVID-19 vaccine team comprises scientists from the Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group. It is led by:
- Professor Sarah Gilbert
- Professor Andrew Pollard
- Professor Teresa Lambe
- Dr Sandy Douglas
- Professor Catherine Green
- Professor Adrian Hill.
The team has decades of experience in vaccine research, and have been regularly funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and other UKRI councils.
Professor Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI said:
We are proud to have supported this promising and inexpensive vaccine, which could be easily distributed at fridge temperature and administered by healthcare systems worldwide.
The Oxford-led vaccine team is among the first in the world trialing a vaccine because, before this pandemic when coronaviruses were only one of many possible epidemic threats, the UK government invested in their vaccine research and development.
Find out how they were able to move quickly to start developing a vaccine for COVID-19 and begin human trials by April 2020.
Video above: How did Oxford University move so fast to create a coronoavirus vaccine? (Credit: UKRI). An autogenerated video transcript is available on YouTube.
How does the Oxford vaccine work?
The Oxford vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) is made from a virus that is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus). This has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.
The Oxford team chose ChAdOx1 as the technology for a COVID-19 vaccine as it had previously generated a strong immune response from one dose in other vaccines.
It’s also a well-studied vaccine type that has been used safely in thousands of subjects.
The teams had already used ChAdOx1 vaccine technology to produce candidate vaccines against a number of pathogens including flu, Zika and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), another coronavirus.
Is the vaccine effective?
The Oxford vaccine began clinical trials in April 2020, when 1000 people were given the vaccine.
Video above: The first human trial of a COVID-19 vaccine in Europe (credit: UKRI). An autogenerated video transcript is available on YouTube.
The team has made rapid progress since the pandemic was announced and has shared data and results with the international community:
- data from the first two phases (Oxford Vaccine Group) indicated no safety concerns and a strong response to the vaccine
- in September the team reported that the vaccine provoked a strong response in older adults (Oxford Vaccine Group), who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19
- in November, a peer-reviewed study of data from phase three of the trials confirmed the Oxford vaccine is safe, effectives and gives good protection.
What happens next?
Trials are continuing in the United States, Kenya, Japan and India and researchers expect to have over 60,000 participants in the trials by the end of the year.
AstraZeneca has agreements in place to supply three billion doses of the vaccine, which will be available to people around the world in 2021.
Large-scale manufacturing is ongoing in over 10 countries to support equitable global access.
For more information, visit: The Oxford Vaccine (Research at Oxford).
Last updated: 23 December 2020