AstraZeneca CEO Soriot says fast-tracked COVID-19 shot will protect for just one year

AstraZeneca, advancing a COVID-19 vaccine from the University of Oxford, is among global frontrunners in the worldwide hunt for a viable vaccine. Now, the drugmaker’s CEO says the vaccine is expected to provide protection for one year.

“We think that it will protect for about a year,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on a Belgian radio station, according to reports. 

After that protection runs out, it isn’t clear whether recipients would be instructed to get another dose, or another vaccine, or rely on COVID-19 treatments if they're approved. So far, Gilead's remdesivir is the only treatment with an emergency use authorization, but research is underway on many other options. On Tuesday, researchers in the United Kingdom reported that the inexpensive steroid dexamethasone cut deaths by a third for patients on ventilation. 

Still, an efficacious and widely available vaccine by this fall would mark a major advance in the fight against COVID-19—even if its duration of protection just covers one year.  

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AstraZeneca is working on only one vaccine candidate out of more than 130 in development across the industry, but the team has quickly advanced to midstage testing with efficacy trials planned yet this year. On the radio program, Soriot said that “if all goes well, we will have the results of the clinical trials in August/September,” as quoted by Reuters. 

“We are manufacturing in parallel,” he added. “We will be ready to deliver from October if all goes well.” 

Numerous governments have already signed deals with the drugmaker to order doses, including an agreement over the weekend from Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands worth $843 million for 300 million doses. Before that deal, AstraZeneca agreed to provide doses to the United Kingdom and inked a $1.2 billion agreement with the U.S. government for hundreds of millions of doses.

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The company has also struck deals with CEPI and Gavi, the Vaccine alliance—plus the Serum Institute of India—to allow for access in low- and middle-income countries.