A vaccine against COVID-19 is urgently needed if we’re to stop the virus spreading and prevent potentially millions of further deaths. We’re now one step closer to that goal.
We have published early results from our clinical trial of the vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (also known as AZD1222), designed by the University of Oxford and developed in partnership with AstraZeneca. The preliminary data shows that it is safe and induced a strong antibody response in all vaccinated volunteers, suggesting that an effective vaccine could be within reach.
This trial was the first time that the vaccine had been given to humans: 543 healthy adults aged 18-55 were vaccinated with a single dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. A further 534 people were given a control vaccine that gives similar minor reactions, including injection site redness and mild pain. Volunteers are having their immune response (both antibodies and T cell levels) monitored for at least 12 months, and will also be observed to see whether or not they develop COVID-19.
The preliminary data from the trial clearly demonstrates that the vaccine induces an antibody response within 28 days. This response is in a similar range to that in individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, providing encouragement that the vaccine will be able to protect the majority of people against infection.
Ten volunteers were also given a second “booster” dose of the vaccine. This increased the antibody response to even higher levels, and 100% of blood samples from this group showed neutralising activity against COVID-19 infection in a laboratory setting.
The vaccine also induced T cells that specifically recognise SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s encouraging to see both antibody and T cell responses, as together this is the right kind of immune response that could lead to protection against the virus. Importantly, the vaccine demonstrates an acceptable safety profile, with no vaccine-induced severe adverse events – that is, no major side-effects.
We were confident testing the vaccine in humans after encouraging trials with mice and rhesus macaque monkeys. These had shown that the vaccine was safe and induced a robust immune response. Significantly, the vaccinated monkeys were protected from severe disease after they were challenged with a much higher dose of SARS-CoV-2 than humans would encounter through natural exposure.
How does this vaccine work?
Vaccines work by training the immune system to recognise and fight off infectious agents (pathogens), such as bacteria and viruses. Vaccines do this by presenting the immune system with a readily identifiable part of a pathogen, which the immune system remembers so that it can quickly respond should it encounter that same pathogen in the future.
Most vaccines in development for SARS-CoV-2 – including this one – focus on presenting the spike protein that decorates the surface of the virus. It’s this protein that allows the virus into human cells by binding to a molecule on their surface called ACE2.
There is a broad range of approaches to vaccine design; ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is what’s known as a viral vector vaccine. To make this vaccine, particles of a different, harmless virus (called ChAdOx1) are loaded with the portion of SARS-CoV-2 DNA that instructs cells how to build the spike protein.
When these ChAdOx1 particles infect human cells, the coronavirus DNA is then “expressed”, building the spike protein for the immune system to respond to. Importantly for vaccine safety, the viral vector can’t replicate and cause an ongoing infection.
The ChAdOx1 viral vector has been used to make eight vaccines already in clinical trials for other human diseases, including Mers (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome), a coronavirus that is related to SARS-CoV-2.
What happens now?
Crucially, we need to demonstrate that the vaccine is effective – that it results in significantly lower (ideally zero) cases of COVID-19 in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccinated group versus the control group. Falling infection rates in the UK are an excellent outcome for the health of the nation, but may compromise the ability to show this.
If there are no cases of COVID-19 in the group receiving the control vaccine, comparing that group to the vaccinated group would be meaningless. Deliberately infecting people with the virus may be possible in future (after careful consideration of the ethical implications), but is not currently allowed.
For this reason, a second trial has been launched in approximately 10,000 UK individuals, focusing on health workers, and further trials are being conducted in Brazil and South Africa, where infection rates are much higher. The expanded UK trial will include children and older adults to estimate vaccine efficacy in these age groups. Immune responses in people over 70 are often lower than those in younger adults.
It’s essential to follow the vaccine-induced immune response over a period of at least one year, to estimate whether booster injections will be required, and if so how often. My personal prediction – based on decreases in antibody levels in individuals infected with other types of coronavirus, rather than data from the current vaccine trial – is that we’re likely to need yearly boosters, similar to annual flu jabs.
Finally, if the vaccine proves effective, rapid manufacture of potentially billions of doses would be required to supply the world. To facilitate this, AstraZeneca has already initiated a large-scale vaccine manufacturing programme, aiming to have hundreds of millions of doses with delivery starting by the end of 2020. Agreements are in place to provide the vaccine to low-income and middle-income countries and also to the UK, Europe and the US.
Radisson Hotel Group announced the addition of six new hotels to its African portfolio, bringing the total to almost 100 hotels across 32 African markets.
The six new hotel deals include:
Radisson Collection Hotel Bamako, Mali
Scheduled to open within the next six months following a re-branding, the hotel introduces Radisson Hotel Group’s premium lifestyle brand to Africa, as the first Radisson Collection hotel to open in the continent.
The operational hotel is currently rated number one on TripAdvisor for its prime location in the heart of Bamako and proximity to the city’s diplomatic district and great accessibility. The 200-room affordable luxury hotel will offer exceptional dining experiences across its five food and beverage outlets, from an all-day dining restaurant and a specialty restaurant to a café, a bar and an executive lounge. The hotel also offers an expansive 1,200sqm meeting & events area consisting of a ballroom and seven conference rooms. For the ultimate contemporary living, guests can stay fit in the hotel’s fully equipped gym or unwind in a serene setting within the spa or alongside the pool.
With the introduction of Radisson Collection in the city, the existing Radisson Blu Hotel, Bamako is expected to commence a full renovation program towards year end.
Radisson Blu Hotel Abuja City Centre, Nigeria
The Radisson Blu Hotel Abuja City Centre, scheduled to open in 2024, is the Group’s first hotel in the city, complementing the existing nine hotels in operation and under development in Nigeria.
Located in the heart of the central business district of Nigeria’s Federal Capital, the 258-room hotel will boast five different food and beverage outlets from a specialty restaurant and all-day-dining restaurant to a Lobby Bar & Café, a picturesque pool terrace and a premium business class lounge. The leisure facilities will include a 555sqm wellness spa, a gym and a swimming pool to maintain guest’s wellness.
Radisson Hotel & Convention Centre Johannesburg, O.R. Tambo
Scheduled to open before year end, the hotel will introduce the Group’s upscale Radisson brand to Johannesburg. Located on a private estate in Bredell, Kempton Park, the hotel has easy access to major highways joining Johannesburg and Pretoria and is approximately 10 minutes’ drive away from O.R Tambo International Airport, Africa’s biggest and busiest airport, facilitating over 21 million passengers in 2018.
The newly built hotel will offer an array of dining options, including four restaurants, three bars an entertainment deck and an executive lounge.
The hotels 289 modern and timelessly designed rooms comprise of 248 which are newly built and 41 which have been converted from an existing hotel. In addition, it has a large MICE facility, which includes a significant conference centre with a 1,260-seater auditorium and five conference rooms. The leisure facilities will include a gym, spa & wellness centre as well as three outdoor pools.
Scheduled to open within the next six months following a re-branding, the hotel introduces Radisson Hotel Group’s premium lifestyle brand to Africa.
Radisson Hotel Addis Ababa
Radisson Hotel Group’s fifth hotel in Ethiopia, scheduled to open in 2021, is located just 4km from Ethiopia’s newly expanded Addis Ababa Bole International Airport terminal, now the biggest airport aviation hub in Africa, expected to accommodate 22 million passengers a year.
The 114-room hotel will boast a wide variety of food and drink outlets, the hotel will offer guests a truly local experience in a traditional Ethiopian specialty restaurant and bar and appease international taste buds in a bespoke all-day-dining restaurant which leads out into a pool bar. In addition, the hotel will also have a third bespoke panoramic bar.
Radisson Hotel & Apartments Accra, Ghana
The hotel, scheduled to open in 2023, is a full renovation of an existing 121 room hotel and construction of an additional tower which will offer 54 hotel apartments, creating a mixed-use development. The hotel is located on Tema Highway, Ghana’s largest port located to the East of Accra. Within a 3km radius of the hotel is the Kotoka International Airport, Accra Mall and the Airport City complex, a mixed-use development with several Grade AAA office towers and retail outlets.
From an all-day dining restaurant, lobby bar and rooftop restaurant, bar and pool terrace, every culinary preference will be catered for. The versatile meeting and events facilities are made up of 12 different venues with an area of 1,173sqm. The hotel will also include a gym, spa and swimming pool.
Park Inn by Radisson, Durban Intl. Airport, Dube, South Africa
The new-build hotel introduces the upper midscale Park Inn by Radisson brand to Durban and strengthens Radisson Hotel Group’s current portfolio of 15 hotels (3,007 rooms) in operation and under development in the country. It will also complement the national business circuit with a Park Inn by Radisson in each of the three major cities of South Africa (Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg).
Claiming its foremost milestone, it is the first hotel within Dube Trade Port Special Economic Zone, which forms the heart of the first purpose-planned aerotropolis in Africa, around King Shaka International Airport. The 168-room hotel scheduled to open in 2022, will have a lobby bar, rooftop all-day dining restaurant and rooftop pool terrace with eight different meeting & event venues.
China is considering retaliating against telecom gear makers Nokia and Ericsson if the European Union follows the United States and Britain in banning Huawei Technologies from 5G networks, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Britain last week ordered telecom operators not to purchase 5G components from Huawei from the end of this year and remove all existing gear made by the Chinese telecoms behemoth from the 5G network by 2027.
Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia are among the most immediate beneficiaries of the U.S-led campaign against Huawei.
China's Ministry of Commerce is looking into export controls that would prevent Nokia and Ericsson from sending products it makes in China to other countries, the Journal reported here.
The retaliation would be a worst-case scenario that Beijing would use only if European countries came down hard on Chinese suppliers and banned them from their 5G networks, one person told the Journal.
The EU has so far not recommended a ban on Huawei but has issued a so-called “toolbox” of security standards that member states should apply while using suppliers considered to be high risk to build 5G networks.
Nokia and Ericsson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.