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AstraZeneca, Oxford University buoyed by vaccine response

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A clinical trial of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University will continue despite the death of a volunteer in Brazil, as a review did not reveal safety concerns Vincenzo PINTO AFP/File

British pharma giant AstraZeneca said on Monday trials of its coronavirus vaccine pioneered with Oxford University had shown “encouraging” responses among elderly, as well as younger participants.

The potential vaccine, one of 10 around the world in the most advanced phase III of trials, showed “strong immune responses” in all adult groups during the previous stage, according to an update from Oxford.

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An AstraZeneca spokesman said the initial results “further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity” of its experimental vaccine.

“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults, the spokesman added.

The positive news emerged in data on the safety and immune responses of participants in the phase II stage of the trial Oxford has submitted for peer review in a medical journal.

They include results for UK volunteers aged 56-69 and over 70, with formal publication of the data expected “in the coming weeks”.

“Our ongoing trials will provide further data, but this marks a key milestone and reassures us that the vaccine is safe for use and induces strong immune responses in both parts of the immune system in all adult groups,” the university said.

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Oxford and AstraZeneca have been trialing their potential vaccine for months in various countries around the world.

It was suspended worldwide on September 6 after a participant’s illness, but resumed shortly thereafter in Britain, and in the following weeks in South Africa, Brazil and Japan.

Authorities determined the illness was not apparently linked to the vaccine, with the US Food and Drug Administration also authorising the restart in the United States at the weekend.

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The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is one of the most promising and advanced in the world to combat the global pandemic, which has now claimed the lives of 1.1 million people.

Many countries are counting on using it to inoculate their populations.

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The drugmaker pre-sold hundreds of millions of doses on several continents, and signed partnership deals with other producers to ensure the doses could be made locally.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock further fuelled optimism Monday, noting in an interview that once approved the “bulk” of the vaccine’s rollout could occur in Britain before next summer.

© 2020 AFP


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Mike Pompeo hosting 900-person holiday party as State Department calls for ‘non-mission critical events’

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Secretary Mike Pompeo is hosting another one of his famous gatherings. This time it isn't an intimate dinner party with huge GOP donors and CEOs at taxpayer expense, it is a 900-person holiday party extravaganza.

According to the Washington Post, Pompeo sent out a department-wide notice to staff last week telling them that “any non-mission critical events” be changed to “virtual events as opposed to in-person gatherings.” But event planners were told that the instruction didn't apply to the department's holiday functions they were working on, “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” on Dec. 15.

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Ohio Department of Health warns Ohioans not to travel to Ohio

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According to News 5 Cleveland, the Ohio Department of Health has expanded the list of states on their COVID-19 travel advisory list. But one new addition to the list was confusing: Ohio itself.

"Ohio has been added to the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 Travel Advisory map, meaning the state is recommending Ohioans avoid traveling to Ohio, and those entering Ohio after traveling from Ohio are advised to self-quarantine in Ohio for 14 days," reported Ian Cross. "Obviously, outside of The Matrix or a Christopher Nolan movie, this is physically impossible."

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Sundance festival unveils screenings across US and online due to virus

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The Sundance film festival unveiled plans Wednesday to screen premieres at drive-ins and arthouse theaters across the United States and online, as the movie industry continues to adapt to the crippling effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Co-founded by actor-director Robert Redford some four decades ago and known for introducing indie classics from Quentin Tarantino's debut "Reservoir Dogs" to the Oscar-winning "Whiplash," Sundance typically takes place each January and February in the mountains of western state of Utah.

But with theaters closed across much of the nation and a deadly third wave of the disease showing little sign of abating, festivals have become just one key element of the film industry upended by the crisis.

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