How the resented AstraZeneca vaccine could save Australia

How the resented AstraZeneca vaccine could save Australia
How the resented AstraZeneca vaccine could save Australia

The much-maligned AstraZeneca vaccine could prove key to Australia dodging yet another Covid wave sweeping the nation if the UK's experience is any guide.

One EU country after another is going back into lockdown in the latest battle against Covid, with the continent on red alert as the bitter winter weather starts to bite. 

More than 4,000 are dying every day across Europe at the moment with Russia, Germany, Romania, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands among the worst hit.

Daily cases numbers are frequently running at double the previous peaks from earlier in the pandemic - and are still rising, with more than 310,000 cases a day.

But UK deaths and case numbers have remained relatively constant since July, and experts believe the AstraZeneca jab may be playing a key part in that.

The much-maligned AstraZeneca vaccine could prove key to Australia dodging yet another Covid wave sweeping the nation if the UK's experience is any guide (pictured, racegoers enjoy the Melbourne Cup after Victoria's lockdown ended)

The much-maligned AstraZeneca vaccine could prove key to Australia dodging yet another Covid wave sweeping the nation if the UK's experience is any guide (pictured, racegoers enjoy the Melbourne Cup after Victoria's lockdown ended)

One EU country after another is going back into lockdown in the latest battle against Covid, with the continent on red alert as the bitter winter weather starts to bite (pictured, Lipizzaner horses go to training in Austria without any spectators as the country re-enters lockdown)

One EU country after another is going back into lockdown in the latest battle against Covid, with the continent on red alert as the bitter winter weather starts to bite (pictured, Lipizzaner horses go to training in Austria without any spectators as the country re-enters lockdown)

While daily cases numbers are still worryingly high in the UK, running around 40,000 a day, deaths have become relatively rare at just 10 per cent of the country's worst figures.

The UK and Australia were the two main nations to have a widespread rollout of the locally produced and Oxford University-created AstraZeneca vaccine.

Most other countries relied on mRNA jabs like the US-produced Pfizer, while China and Russia produced their own.

Pfizer and other mRNA jabs package the vaccine in a droplet of fat, while the AstraZeneca delivers its vaccine via the shell of another harmless virus, the adenovirus. 

Now researchers are exploring whether the use of AstraZeneca may have played an important role in the UK's resistance to the latest wave.

More than 4,000 are dying every day across Europe at the moment with Russia, Germany, Romania, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands among the worst hit (pictured, a man walks past a closed tourist information office in Austria during the fresh lockdown)

More than 4,000 are dying every day across Europe at the moment with Russia, Germany, Romania, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands among the worst hit (pictured, a man walks past a closed tourist information office in Austria during the fresh lockdown)

There has been violence on the streets of Europe over Covid clampdowns as the virus gains ground once more (pictured: protesters set up fire in the street during a demonstration against Belgium government's measures to curb the spread of Covid-19)

There has been violence on the streets of Europe over Covid clampdowns as the virus gains ground once more (pictured: protesters set up fire in the street during a demonstration against Belgium government's measures to curb the spread of Covid-19) 

AstraZeneca is suspected to cause a longer T-cell response than other vaccines - a vital part of the immunity process - which could make it more effective in a long-term battle against Covid.

'That seems to be important in any vaccine over other vaccines,' Professor Bryan Williams, the emeritus director of the Melbourne-based Hudson Institute, told Daily Mail Australia.

'But it's really difficult to tell because huge numbers in the UK population [around 10 million] have had Covid, even before vaccination.

'We're looking at a very large amount of immunity within the population because of natural exposure, plus the effect of vaccination with AstraZeneca.'

CURRENT COVID-19 VACCINES

Three main types of vaccines have so far been used in the fight against Covid-19 around the world, but more are in trials and under development.

ADENOVIRUS VECTOR VACCINES 

This type includes AstraZeneca, and uses a modified adenovirus to deliver DNA coded with a SARS‑CoV‑2 protein to spark the body's immune system into action. A similar mechanism is also used in the Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Convidecia vaccines which have been rolled out in China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Moldova, Belarus, Hungary, Serbia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. The US-made Johnson & Johnson jab is also the same type but was initially only a single-dose vaccine, until US authorities recommended a second booster shot in October 2021.

mRNA VACCINES

The two other vaccines currently approved in Australia - Pfizer and Moderna - both use this platform to deliver Covid-19 immunity. Both contain RNA or messenger RNA in a drop of fat which then causes some cells to develop a harmless version of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to kickstart the body's resistance to the disease. Side effects are very rare but the vaccine needs to be stored at a very low temperature, which causes distribution challenges, especially in third world countries. A freeze-dried version is currently under development which would not need to be kept cold. It has been approved and used throughout the world except for a handful of countries including Russia and China.

INACTIVATED VIRUS VACCINES

These are more traditional forms of vaccines which take laboratory-cultivated Covid-19 virus particles and kill them with heat or formaldehyde but still retain the proteins needed to create an immune response when injected. It is the same type of technology that was used in the 19th and 20th century against cholera, plague, typhoid and rabies. It's the mechanism behind the Chinese CoronaVac/Sinovac, BIBP and WIBP vaccines, India's Covaxin, Russia's Covivac, Kazakhstani QazVac, and Iran's COVIran Barekat

SUBUNIT VACCINES 

Often known as protein vaccines, this a controversial new technology which just uses a small piece of protein to create the immune response. Critics claim the proteins may be too small to be recognised by the human immune system. The vaccines are largely still in testing, but Russia has authorised its EpiVacCorona for use, along with Turkmenistan. China, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Malaysia are also using a Chinese version, ZF2001. The US-produced Covovax has been undergoing trials in Australia, Mexico and India and has been authorised in Indonesia and the Philippines. 

 INTRANASAL VACCINES

These nasal spray vaccines are the holy grail against Covid - easy to distribute and easy to use, with no needle fear. So far there are no nasal spray vaccines for Covid-19, but there is one for the

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