What’s happened to AstraZeneca? Why Oxford vaccine has disappeared

Vaccines: Professor says vulnerable may need fourth jab

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Ever since the Covid variant Omicron surfaced last month, the UK has accelerated its booster vaccine programme. Indeed, Boris Johnson has set a target for all eligible adults in England to be offered a third dose by the end of this month. Initially, when vaccines were being created, the Oxford AstraZeneca version was one of the first to be approved. However, it’s not being recommended to be used as part of the UK’s booster programme – so what’s led to this development?

The vaccine developed in partnership by Oxford University and AstraZeneca – a British-Swedish company – was one of the first Covid vaccines to be approved for use in the UK vaccination programme, on December 30, 2020.

In fact, it was administered for the first time outside of a trial at the start of this year on January 4.

As of November, more than two billion doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been released to 170-plus countries around the world.

Nonetheless, the vaccine has been ignored by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) within its guidance for what versions should be used as part of the UK’s booster programme.

Why is AstraZeneca not recommended as a booster?

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told Express.co.uk that: “The advice from our independent advisers at the JCVI is to offer mRNA vaccines for booster vaccines.

“This follows data from the COVBOOST trial showing Pfizer and Moderna produce the strongest immune response when used as a booster jab, regardless of the vaccine used for the primary two doses.”

Readers should note that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines involve injecting messenger RNA into a person’s cells as opposed to the AstraZeneca version which uses messenger DNA.

The COVBOOST trial was used by the JCVI to understand the effects that were produced when different types of Covid vaccines were administered to individuals for a third time.

From those findings they determined a preference for the Pfizer vaccine to be offered to all adults who participate in the UK’s booster programme.

Moreover, the JCVI found that individuals could be offered half a dose of the Moderna vaccine as an alternative.

In it’s independent report that was released last September it explained: “A half dose (50µg) of Moderna vaccine is advised over a full dose due to the levels of reactogenicity seen following boosting with a full dose within the COV-BOOST trial.”

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The guidance also stated that where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered that AstraZeneca’s vaccine “may be considered” for those who received it in the “primary course” (first and second dose).

Today, Oxford University released the results from a study which suggested that a third dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine significantly boosted neutralising antibody levels against Omicron.

In fact, their research saw neutralising antibodies increase to similar levels as those after two doses against the Delta variant with a booster shot.

Meanwhile, a third dose produced higher levels of neutralising antibodies than those found in individuals who had recovered naturally from the Alpha, Beta and Delta strains, the company said.

Shares in Astra rose by 0.3 percent in early London trading as a result of the announcement.

As of Wednesday, December 22, a third vaccine dose has been given to 30,844,888 people in the UK – which equates to 53.6 percent of the population aged 12 or over.

According to UK Government figures Tuesday, December 21 was the day that the most third doses have been awarded in a single day – that figure being 968,665.

Boris Johnson’s aim is to offer all eligible adults in England, over the age of 18 a booster dose by the end of 2021 in the face of rising Covid cases.

You are eligible to receive your third dose so long as it has been three months since your second inoculation took place.

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