The University of Oxford has expanded a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine trial where participants are given two different vaccines in the first and second dose.
The extra study, aimed at exploring whether the rollout can be done more flexibly, will recruit over-50s who have received their first jab in the past eight to 12 weeks.
These volunteers, who will have received either the Oxford-AstraZeneca (LON:AZN), or Pfizer (NYSE:PFI) vaccine, will be randomly allocated to receive either the same one for their second dose, or a dose of the inoculations produced by Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) or Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX).
The six new ‘arms’ of the trial will each recruit 175 candidates, adding a further 1050 recruits into this programme.
The analysis will compare the immune system responses to the gold-standard responses reported in previous clinical trials of each vaccine.
The study has been classified as an Urgent Public Health study by the authorities and received funding of GBP7mln from the government through the Vaccines Taskforce.
“If we can show that these mixed schedules generate an immune response that is as good as the standard schedules, and without a significant increase in the vaccine reactions, this will potentially allow more people to complete their COVID-19 immunisation course more rapidly,” said Matthew Snape, Associate Professor in Paediatrics and Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and chief investigator of the trial.
“This would also create resilience within the system in the event of a shortfall in availability of any of the vaccines in use.”
South African variant in London
Meanwhile, there are concerns in the capital after 44 people tested positive for the South African variant in Lambeth and Wandsworth.
The Department of Health and Social Care announced its largest surge testing operation to date on Tuesday to control the outbreak.
Prof Peter Openshaw, a member of the Covid-19 clinical information network, told the BBC’s Newsnight: “I think we’re all just hoping that the staged reduction in lockdown is going to be OK.
“If we get rapid spread of the South African or other more resistant variants, it may well be that we are going to have to put the reductions of lockdown into reverse.”