Another week and more good news in the fight against COVID-19. For the third week in a row, researchers have announced a successful COVID-19 vaccine—this time from Oxford University in the U.K., reports the BBC. The Oxford vaccine has been one of the longest in the making; work began almost 10 months ago.
The Oxford vaccine has a major drawback that the American vaccines don’t, but it also has two major advantages.
Here’s what you need to know.
- The Oxford vaccine only has a 70% efficacy rating: That means, on average, only 7 out of 10 people who get the Oxford vaccine will be inoculated from Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In other words, 3 in 10 will still be susceptible to it even after receiving the Oxford vaccine. That efficacy rating is still better than the average flu vaccine, but not as good as the vaccines from Pfizer (95% efficacy) and Moderna (94.5% efficacy).
- Oxford’s vaccine’s efficacy rating could increase: That’s because the efficacy rating was 70% for people who only received one dose of the vaccine. A smaller trial within the main trial showed that people who received a half first dose followed by a subsequent full dose had a 90% chance of being inoculated from the virus.
- The Oxford vaccine is far cheaper: As the BBC notes, while Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20 per dose and Moderna’s vaccine costs about $34 per dose, Oxford’s vaccine is only about $4 per dose. This could make the Oxford vaccine the better option to inoculate poorer, developing countries. Even if two doses of Oxford’s vaccine are needed to reach an efficacy rating of around 90%, it would still be cheaper than using the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
- The Oxford vaccine doesn’t require extreme cold storage: This is perhaps the biggest advantage the Oxford vaccine has. While the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (-94°F), and Moderna’s needs to be stored at -20°C (-4°F) during shipping, the Oxford vaccine requires only standard refrigeration. It will be far easier to store and distribute since specialized cold storage units will not be required.
- The safety of the vaccine still needs to be determined: While the Oxford vaccine is another promising development, its safety still needs to be determined. Things look good for it so far, but it will be a few more weeks before regulators can officially deem the Oxford vaccine safe to use in people.
Any way you cut it, though, three vaccines in three weeks is something to celebrate. However, remember that the vaccines, if they are approved for widespread use, will still take months to be distributed to the population at large. During that period, the pandemic will still be running unchecked, with winter expected to see more infections than ever before.