A potential coronavirus vaccine developed by the British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University is to be included in clinical trials that incorporate the approach used by scientists behind a Russian treatment.
The new tests will use a jab from Russia’s Sputnik V as well as the British one to determine if two different inoculations work better than two identical ones. Both vaccines are based on a common-cold virus.
The move could be “an important step in generating wider protection through a stronger immune response and better accessibility,” AstraZeneca said on Friday.
The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine has an average effectiveness of 70 per cent.
The Sputnik shot has yet to complete its third and final phase of testing, but its developers have said interim trial results showed 95 per cent efficacy.
AstraZeneca will now be testing whether using two vectors - including part of the Sputnik V vaccine - improves its efficacy.
The trials are expected to start before the end of this year.
Moscow announced the registration of Sputnik V back in August, after it had completed the second phase of trials on fewer than 100 volunteers, raising concerns from scientists at home and abroad that the shot’s safety wasn’t backed by science.
Analysts viewed the fast-track registration as an effort by Russia to bolster its image abroad.
The shot was named Sputnik V after the Soviet-era satellite.
Several Russian allies – including India, Venezuela and Belarus – have said they would take part in clinical trials for the jab, and Kremlin-friendly governments have pre-ordered more than a billion doses of Sputnik V.
Ignoring accusations by Britain of Russian-linked hackers targeting vaccine research, Moscow has said it is open to co-operation with Western countries.
The vaccine's developers said Sputnik V would be available on international markets for less than $10 per dose – and that it can be stored at between 2°and 8°C, instead of the temperatures far below freezing required for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.
AstraZeneca declined to comment on whether the company would wait for approval of the Sputnik vaccine from western regulators before starting the trials, and neither AstraZeneca nor RDIF would comment on where the trials will take place.