The data describing the vaccine's effect on older people has also taken on outsize importance, since this group is especially vulnerable to serious illness or death from the virus.
Participants were split into two groups to receive one of two vaccination schedules - either two injections given 14 days apart or two injections given 28 days apart.
According to the study, Phase 2 of the trial was initiated when all participants in phase 1 had finished a 7-day observation period after their first dose.
The study's findings, which looked only at data from the phase 2 trial, are important because older adults often have a lessened immune response and are more susceptible to infections, explained the study's lead author, Andrew Pollard.
That could be a nod to revelations that the Pfizer vaccine, which is based on leading-edge technology and has already completed trials, needs to be kept at around minus 70 degrees Celsius, which could make storing and transporting it hard, particularly in developing countries.
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"We believe that this makes the vaccine suitable for emergency use during the pandemic", Zhu added. "We believe that a vaccine is one of our exits from this very hard situation the U.S.is in, and of course the world".
Dr. Pollard, an expert in pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford, said Thursday that research was slowed by low infection rates over the summer, but the Phase III trials are now accumulating the data needed to report results. Storage of the vaccine at specific temperatures will be a major hurdle since vaccine candidates in contention have different storage requirements.
Early phase trials generally check if the vaccine is safe and provokes an immune response, and are used to determine things like dosing and side effects. Moderna's vaccine can last for a month in a normal fridge or six months if stored at minus 20 Celsius.
Oxford expects final-stage efficacy results in the coming weeks.
"Larger studies are now underway to evaluate immunogenicity, safety and efficacy in older adults with a wider range of comorbidities", the Lancet report notes.
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But today's evidence from Oxford isn't the same.
Infectious disease specialists answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines including if results from clinical trials will hold up in the real world.
This is a very encouraging result.
"The research shows that an immune response was generated in all age groups, including in the cohort of participants aged over 70 years", said Michael Head, senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, who was not involved in the trial. These Phase 2 results show that this was not the case for the Oxford vaccine.
Responses were "similar" across all age groups, the researchers said.
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