British drug maker claims COVID-19 vaccine can be 90pc effective. And the drug cost works out just a few dollars a shot, a fraction of the price of shots from Pfizer Moderna.

LONDON : AstraZeneca said on Monday its Covid-19 vaccine could be as much as 90% effective, giving the world's fight against the global pandemic a new weapon, cheaper to make, easier to distribute and faster to scale-up than rivals.

The British drug-maker said it will have as many as 200 million doses by the end of 2020, around four times as many as US competitor Pfizer.

700 hundred million doses could be ready globally as soon as the end of the first quarter of 2021.

''THIS means that we have a vaccine for the world,'' said Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford University vaccine group that developed the drug.

The vaccine on average prevented 70 percent of Covid-19 cases in later stages trials in Britain and Brazil but the success rate rose to 90pc if the vaccine was administered as a half-dose followed by full dose. The efficacy was 62 pc if the full dose was given twice, as it was for most study participants.

The faster roll out means both rich and poor countries that had been drawing up plans to ration vaccines can distribute them more widely, helping to eventually halt the social and economic disruption of a pandemic that has killed 1.4 million people.

''The bulk of the vaccine rollout programme will be in January, February, March. And we hope that sometime after Easter things will be able to start to get back to normal,'' said Matt Hamcock, health secretary of Britain which has pre-ordered 100 doses for its 67 million people.

In poor countries, where the logistics of distributing rival vaccines posed a bigger challenge, the effect of a cheaper alternative could be even more pronounced.

Zahid Maleque, health minister of Bangladesh, which is buying in 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, called the findings ''really good news''.

''The big advantage of having the vaccine is that it can be stored, transported and handled at 2.8 degrees Celsius , and we have the storage facility,'' he said.

The World Health Organization's chief scientist Soumy Swaminathan called the results ''encouraging'' and said the health body looked forward to seeing the data. [Reuters]


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