Health and Science

AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine works against Covid variant found in the UK, data shows

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Key Points
  • The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with a more efficient and rapid transmission.
  • There is also some evidence this Covid variant could be more deadly than the original strain.
Dipesh Sonar and Nisha Gill speak with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit at the quality control laboratory of Oxford Biomedica, where batches of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are tested, in Oxford, Britain January 18, 2021.
Heathcliff O'Malley | Reuters

LONDON — The coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University has the same level of efficiency against the Covid variant first discovered in the U.K. compared to previous variants, according to new data Friday.

The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with a more efficient and rapid transmission. There is also some evidence this Covid variant could be more deadly than the original strain.

"Data from our trials of the ChAdOx1 vaccine in the United Kingdom indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the novel variant, B.1.1.7, which caused the surge in disease from the end of 2020 across the UK," Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said in an announcement Friday.

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The findings have not yet been not peer-reviewed. They also describe recent analysis showing that the AstraZeneca vaccine may reduce the transmission of the disease.

Scientists first detected this Covid mutation in southeast England in September. It has since been found in at least 44 countries, including the U.S.

In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the modeled trajectory of the variant in the United States "exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March."

The AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine has been found to be 76% effective at preventing symptomatic infection for three months after a single dose, and the efficacy rate rose with a longer interval between the first and second doses.

Reduction in transmission

Another study released Tuesday also provided important data on whether the AstraZeneca vaccine reduces transmission of the virus, a previous unknown and a crucial question for policymakers looking to lift lockdown measures that have crippled the economy. Based on weekly swabs from volunteers in the U.K. study, it found a 67% reduction in transmission after the first dose of the vaccine.

"We are working with AstraZeneca to optimise the pipeline required for a strain change should one become necessary," Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology, and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said in the release Friday.

"This is the same issue that is faced by all of the vaccine developers, and we will continue to monitor the emergence of new variants that arise in readiness for a future strain change."

—CNBC's Sam Meredith and Holly Ellyatt contributed to this article.