“I think we are getting closer, and it will definitely be before Christmas based on progress,” Dr Pollard said in an interview with the BBC.
Dr. Pollard discussed progress in late-stage trials when Oxford published a study based on earlier research that found the vaccine was well tolerated and produced a strong immune response in people over 70 years of age. This is important because vaccines often don’t work as well in older people, Dr. Pollard said.
“The reason we are so delighted is that we are seeing that immune responses look exactly the same, even in those who are in their 70s,” said Dr. Pollard.
The findings were based on a so-called phase II trial of 560 people, including 240 over the age of 70. Results of the peer-reviewed study were published Thursday in the Lancet, an international medical journal.
Phase II vaccine trials provide important preliminary data, but they don’t test whether they ultimately keep people from getting sick. Oxford and AstraZeneca are awaiting the results of phase III trials in thousands of people around the world to show whether their vaccine is safe and effective.
Dr. Pollard said there is no competition between the various research teams, because multiple vaccines will be needed to control the global pandemic and allow life to return to normal.
Despite recent progress, Dr. Pollard said the world is still in the early stages of the effort to protect people from COVID-19. Even after the vaccines are approved by regulators, drug manufacturers and public health officials still face the task of producing billions of doses and administering them to people around the world, he said.
Dr. Pollard, an amateur mountaineer, likened the task to the work involved in climbing a mountain.
“I think we are still at the foot of that mountain in some way,” he said.
“We have made the route to the base of the mountain, the long walk to get to the start. Now we have to put the vaccine data in front of the regulators for them to review and approve the first vaccines. And then we have that great effort to climb to the top where we have a large majority of those at risk vaccinated. “
– Reported with Associated Press