Even as the world is waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine almost a year after the outbreak, a manufacturing error in the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and Oxford University is raising doubts about the initial test results of the trial vaccine. This comes days after the vaccine was described as highly effective despite no mention of why some volunteers got less dosage of the vaccine in the first two shots compared to others. As things stand now, the group of volunteers who got less dosage of vaccine are fine compared to volunteers who got two full doses of vaccine.
In the low-dose group, AstraZeneca said, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective. In the group that got two full doses, the vaccine appeared to be 62% effective. Combined, the drugmakers said the vaccine appeared to be 70% effective. But the way in which the results were arrived at and reported by the companies has led to pointed questions from experts.
The partial results announced on Monday are from large ongoing studies in the UK and Brazil designed to determine the optimal dose of vaccine, as well as examine safety and effectiveness. Multiple combinations and doses were tried in the volunteers. They were compared to others who were given a meningitis vaccine or a saline shot.
According to The New York Times, experts in the US are not highly confident of the vaccine after the error coupled with irregularities in the company head revealing facts later. Another factor is that older people were not part of the trial, a fact again that was hidden by AstraZeneca.
In an interview with New York Times on Wednesday, Menelas Pangalos, the AstraZeneca executive in charge of much of the company’s research and development, defended the company’s handling of the testing and its public disclosures. He said the error in the dosage was made by a contractor, and that, once it was discovered, regulators were immediately notified and signed off on the plan to continue testing the vaccine in different doses.