AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine does more than prevent people from falling seriously ill — it appears to reduce transmission of the virus and offers strong protection for three months on just a single dose, researchers said Wednesday in an encouraging turn in the campaign to suppress the outbreak.
The preliminary findings from Oxford University, a co-developer of the vaccine, could vindicate the British government’s controversial strategy of delaying the second shot for up to 12 weeks so that more people can be quickly given a first dose. Up to now, the recommended time between doses has been four weeks.
The research could also bring scientists closer to an answer to one of the big questions about the vaccination drive: Will the vaccines actually curb the spread of the coronavirus?
It’s not clear what implications, if any, the findings might have for the two other major vaccines being used in the West, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
The makers of all three vaccines have said that their shots proved to be anywhere from 70% to 95% effective in clinical trials in protecting people from illness caused by the virus. But it was unclear whether the vaccines could also suppress transmission of the virus — that is, whether someone inoculated could still acquire the virus without getting sick and spread it to others.
As a result, experts have been saying that even people who have been vaccinated should continue to wear masks and keep their distance from others.
Oxford's study, however, found that the vaccine not only prevented severe disease but appeared to cut transmission of the virus by two-thirds. The study has not been peer-reviewed yet.
In other developments:
- President Joe Biden told Democratic lawmakers Wednesday he's “not married" to an absolute number on his $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan but Congress needs to “act fast” on relief for the pandemic and the economic crisis.
- The city of San Francisco took a dramatic step Wednesday in its effort to get children back into public school classrooms, suing its own school district to try to force open the doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- As the nation's COVID-19 vaccination campaign accelerates, governors, public health directors and committees advising them are holding key discussions not in public but behind closed doors, including debates about who should be eligible for the shots and how best to distribute them.
- The National Women’s Hockey League called off the remainder of its season Wednesday on the eve of the playoffs because of additional positive test results for the coronavirus.
- Ground rules for thousands of Olympic and Paralympic officials to ensure safe travel, daily life and competitions at the Tokyo Games during the coronavirus pandemic were published Wednesday.
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