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AstraZeneca chief: Our coronavirus vaccine could protect older people longer than mRNA ...

AstraZeneca chief: Our coronavirus vaccine could protect older people longer than mRNA ...

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The head of AstraZeneca has suggested that the company’s adenovirus vaccine could provide longer-lasting protection against COVID-19 especially in older people than the mRNA vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna.

French CEO Pascal Soriot said this could be a reason why the U.K. hasn’t experienced the same high levels of hospitalizations as Europe, where cases have surged in recent months. But he said more data was needed.

“It's really interesting, when you look at the U.K., there was a big peak of infections, but not so many hospitalizations relative to Europe,” he told BBC Radio 4.

“In the U.K., this vaccine was used to vaccinate older people whereas in Europe initially people thought the vaccine doesn't work in older people,” he said.

The pharma chief suggested that this could be because AstraZeneca’s adenovirus vaccine provides a better T cell response than mRNA vaccines.

“The antibody response is what drives the immediate reaction or defense of the body when you are attacked by the virus,” Soriot said. “And the T cell response takes a little longer to come in. But it's actually more durable; it lasts longer.”

The pharma chief said AstraZeneca’s adenovirus COVID-19 vaccine “has been shown to stimulate T cells to a higher degree in older people.”

While antibodies bind to the virus and stop it from entering cells to cause disease, their numbers wane over time after vaccination. There are several types of T cell, or white blood cells, that also play a role in fighting infections. Some find and kill infected cells, while others help to produce special antibodies to attack parts of the virus.

Pushed on whether increasing hospitalizations in Europe were linked to EU countries not using the adenovirus jab in older people, Soriot said: “There's no proof of anything. We don't know. But we need more data to analyze this and get the answer.”

Soriot was speaking to the BBC ahead of the opening of a new £1 billion research and development facility that will accommodate more than 2,200 scientists in Cambridge. The center will be formally unveiled Tuesday by Prince Charles.

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