The Mail on Sunday

Com­bined Bri­tish vac­cines could end cri­sis

- By Stephen Adams MED­I­CAL ED­I­TOR Health · Medicine · Vaccines · College · Medical Treatments · Higher Education · Oxford University · Oxford · United Kingdom · AstraZeneca · Imperial College London · Royal Society of Medicine

TWO ri­val vac­cines be­ing de­vel­oped by com­pet­ing Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties could end up be­ing used to­gether to pro­vide last­ing im­mu­nity to coro­n­avirus, ac­cord­ing to one of the ex­perts lead­ing the charge.

Ox­ford Univer­sity’s vac­cine was first out of the blocks and is al­ready be­ing tested on at least 1,000 peo­ple across the UK, while Im­pe­rial Col­lege’s jab only started hu­man tri­als last week.

But Pro­fes­sor Robin Shat­tock, who is mas­ter­mind­ing the Im­pe­rial project, said that although the two vac­cines were be­ing seen as rivals, ul­ti­mately they could well be used to­gether be­cause the way they work dif­fers.

While the Ox­ford vac­cine was ahead in the race to pro­tect against Covid-19, he said it could be lim­ited by an in­abil­ity to be used on the same per­son time and time again.

How­ever, Prof Shat­tock be­lieved it would be pos­si­ble to use the Im­pe­rial jab to bol­ster an in­di­vid­ual’s im­mu­nity ‘mul­ti­ple times’.

Sci­en­tists around t he world in­creas­ingly think booster jabs will be needed to main­tain pro­tec­tion against t he virus t hat causes Covid- 19, as i niti al i mmu­nity pro­vided by a vac­cine may well fade over time.

Last Tues­day Pas­cal So­riot – chief ex­ec­u­tive of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal gi­ant As­traZeneca, which has partnered with Ox­ford to pro­duce a bil­lion doses of the jab – fu­elled those fears when he said he was con­fi­dent the jab would pro­vide im­mu­nity for ‘about a year’.

Nat­u­ral im­mu­nity to other coro­n­aviruses, which cause com­mon colds, is thought to last from sev­eral months to a cou­ple of years.

The po­ten­tial flaw with the Ox­ford vac­cine is that it uses a harm­less virus as a mi­cro­scopic Tro­jan horse to smug­gle in tiny frag­ments of Covid-19 coro­n­avirus RNA – the bug’s ge­netic blue­print.

The re­cip­i­ent’s im­mune sys­tem learns to iden­tify this RNA as for­eign, and so cre­ates an­ti­bod­ies to pro­tect against it. But ex­perts fear that if a per­son is sub­jected to mul­ti­ple doses of this jab, their body might ‘ mis­tak­enly’ de­velop an im­mune re­sponse to the Tro­jan horse virus it­self – called an ade­n­ovirus – thus ren­der­ing it use­less. As the Im­pe­rial vac­cine does not use a virus as the means of smug­gling in RNA, it should avoid this prob­lem, said Prof Shat­tock.

Speak­ing in a we­bi­nar or­gan­ised by the Royal So­ci­ety of Medicine, Prof Shat­tock said the Ox­ford vac­cine was‘ very good to be able to give an ini­tial im­mune re­sponse, but it has its lim­i­ta­tions in that the abil­ity to re­boost im­mu­nity may be less good than other ap­proaches’.

By con­trast, he said :‘ The ap­proach that we are de­vel­op­ing al­lows you to re- boost mul­ti­ple times.’ He con­tin­ued: ‘ We are of­ten pit­ted against each other, or seen to be in a race against each other, but ac­tu­ally we are col­lab­o­rat­ing very closely to­gether, ex­chang­ing ma­te­rial, and t he two ap­proaches may well be able to be used to­gether, in a “prime, boost” ap­proach.’

‘We are col­lab­o­rat­ing very closely to­gether’

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