24/11/2020 7:45 AM AEDT | Updated 24/11/2020 9:17 AM AEDT

AstraZeneca Vaccine Can Be 90% Effective, On Track For Australia By March

Applications for regulatory approval in Australia will happen in the coming weeks.

Britain’s AstraZeneca said on Monday its vaccine for the coronavirus could be around 90% effective without any serious side effects and will apply for regulatory approval in Australia in the coming weeks. 

The vaccine, developed by Oxford University, was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 when it was administered as a half dose followed by a full dose at least one month apart, according to data from the late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil.

The Australian government has already ordered at least 30 million doses of the vaccine. 

Here are some of the key findings:

  • One dosing regimen was shown to be 90% effective, the other 62%

  • It was shown to work in different age groups, including the elderly

  • The vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at 2-8 degrees Celsius for at least eight months making it easier to transfer around the globe

  • It is hoped 3 billion doses of the vaccine could be supplied around the world by the end of 2021

Interim analysis from the latest phase three trial shows an average efficacy of 70.4% from combining two doses.

Professor Andrew Pollard, who is leading the vaccine trial, said the results would “save many lives.”

In a statement, he said: “Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply.

“Today’s announcement is only possible thanks to the many volunteers in our trial, and the hard-working and talented team of researchers based around the world.”

When will it be available in Australia? 

AstraZeneca will apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for regulatory approval in the coming weeks.   

“Subject to approval, this means that Australians are very much on track for first vaccines in March,” Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt.  

Qantas boss Alan Joyce said international travellers will not be able to travel in 2021 without a jab. 

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say that for international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” he told TV reporters, adding that he thinks other airlines will enforce the same rule. 

The vaccine was developed at the University of Oxford’s Oxford Jenner Institute and is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. It is based on earlier work to produce a treatment for MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus). 

The chimpanzee virus is modified and engineered to express the coronavirus spike protein so it “looks” more like coronavirus to trigger a strong immune response in the human body.

Léonie Chao-Fong of HuffPost UK contributed to this report.