The ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 coronavirus vaccine, developed by teams at the University of Oxford, and also trialled in Southampton, has been shown to trigger a robust immune response in healthy adults aged 56-69 and those over 70 years of age.
The data, published today in The Lancet, suggest that one of the groups most vulnerable to serious illness, and death from COVID-19, could build immunity.
Participants were enrolled at two sites, those aged 70 years and older were recruited in Southampton and all others were recruited at the Oxford Vaccine Centre. Saul Faust, Professor of Paediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Southampton led the clinical trial in Southampton.
Older adults have been shown to be at higher risk from COVID-19. Reporting on data from a Phase II trial of the ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 vaccine, the authors write that volunteers in the trial demonstrate similar neutralising antibody titres, and T cell responses across all three age groups (18-55, 56-79, and 70+).
During the Phase 2 trial the vaccine has been evaluated in 560 healthy adult volunteers aged between 18-55 years, 56-69 years and aged 70 or over. Volunteers received 2 doses of the vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, or a placebo MenACWY vaccine. No serious adverse health events related to ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 were seen in these volunteers.
These data are consistent with the Phase I data reported for healthy adults aged 18-55 early this year.
Professor Faust said:
‘”These are fantastic early results. They give us real hope that if the vaccine is proven to be effective and safe, it will also work in older people, even in those over 70 years old who sometimes don’t respond to vaccines so well as younger people. But the final results of the phase 3 study will be really important to confirm these findings.”
Dr Maheshi Ramasamy, Investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group and Consultant Physician said:
‘Older adults are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination, because they are at increased risk of severe disease, but we know that they tend to have poorer vaccine responses.’
‘We were pleased to see that our vaccine was not only well tolerated in older adults; it also stimulated similar immune responses to those seen in younger volunteers. The next step will be to see if this translates into protection from the disease itself.’
For most vaccines, older adults do not exhibit as strong a response as younger adults, and vaccine-induced antibodies commonly display a lower protective capacity. The data reported today are particularly promising, as they show that the older individuals in this study, who are more prone to serious illness and death from COVID-19, are showing a similar immune response to younger adults.
Dr Angela Minassian, Investigator at the University of Oxford and Honorary Consultant in Infectious Diseases said:
‘Inducing robust immune responses in older adults has been a long-standing challenge in human vaccine research.’
‘To show this vaccine technology is able to induce these responses, in the age group most at risk from severe COVID-19 disease, offers hope that vaccine efficacy will be similar in younger and older adults’.
Furthermore, the vaccine was less likely to cause local reactions at the injection site and symptoms on the day of vaccination in older adults than in the younger group., demonstrating that assessment of the efficacy of the vaccine is warranted in all age groups.
The Phase III trials of the ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 vaccine are ongoing, with early efficacy readings possible in the coming weeks.