By Alistair Smout and Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) – AstraZeneca and Oxford University aim to produce a next generation of COVID-19 vaccines that will protect against variants as soon as the autumn before the Northern Hemisphere winter, an executive at the British drugmaker said on Wednesday.
Asked when AstraZeneca could produce a next generation vaccine to tackle new variants, AstraZeneca research chief Mene Pangalos said “as rapidly as possible”.
“We’re very much aiming to try and have something ready by the autumn, so this year,” he said, adding that the timeline included lab work as well as clinical studies needed to test the new shots.
The aim is to be prepared by the winter, he said in a briefing with the media.
“When we have the next variant, everyone will be up to speed and it should hopefully be more straightforward,” he said.
The partners are confident the shot will work against the more infectious variant identified in Britain that has spread around the world, Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said on the briefing.
They are getting close to having data on the efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccine on older adults, both executives said on the call, emphasising that evidence shows the shot is safe for that age group.
Their comments come after some countries in the European Union have recommended against using the shot on people over 65 years old because of a lack of sufficient data for that age group.
The results from a late-stage trial of the shot in the United States may be available in the next month or two, Pangalos said.