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And now for the Back Story on …
The AstraZeneca vaccine
Preliminary analysis of the vaccine produced by the British-Swedish drugmaker and the University of Oxford showed it was 90 percent effective when the first dose was cut in half. In contrast, the combination of two full-dose shots led to just 62 percent efficacy. Our science reporters explain what’s behind those head-scratching results.
Why would that combination be more effective?
No one knows. The researchers speculated that the lower first dose did a better job of mimicking the experience of an infection, promoting a stronger immune response. But other factors, like the size and makeup of the groups that got different doses, may also be at play.
Why did the researchers test two different doses?
It was a lucky mistake. Researchers in Britain had been meaning to give volunteers the initial dose at full strength, but they made a miscalculation and accidentally gave it at half strength, Reuters reported. After discovering the error, the researchers gave each affected participant the full-strength booster shot as planned about a month later.
Fewer than 2,800 volunteers got the half-strength initial dose, out of the more than 23,000 participants whose results were reported on Monday. That’s a pretty small number of participants on which to base the spectacular efficacy results — far fewer than in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s trials.
That’s it for this briefing. Join me tomorrow for more news.
Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach Natasha and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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