Boost for Pascal Soriot as Astrazeneca's jab fights Omicron

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Astrazeneca scores a victory after lab study shows its Covid-19 vaccine is effective against the Omicron variant


Pharma giant Astrazeneca scored another victory after a lab study showed its Covid-19 vaccine was effective against the Omicron variant. 

The jab, developed with the University of Oxford, ‘significantly boosted’ the levels of antibodies following a third dose – matching vaccines developed by Pfizer, German outfit Biontech and Moderna. 

The study also showed that after three doses, the vaccine provided the same neutralisation levels against Omicron as those seen against the Delta variant after two doses. 

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford and one of the study investigators, said the results support the use of third doses ‘especially to limit the spread of variants of concern, including Omicron’. 

Astra shares dipped 0.2 per cent, or 19p to 8596p yesterday. The data follows Astra’s announcement on Tuesday that it was working on a new jab targeting Omicron. And data last week found that an antibody treatment was effective against Omicron. The developments are a victory for boss Pascal Soriot, who has aggressively promoted the company’s jab. 

The success has put it ahead of Glaxosmithkline which, with French peer Sanofi, has been struggling to catch up. 

Last week, data from a late-stage clinical trial of their booster vaccine meant that it would miss a deadline of getting the jab approved by the end of 2021. The vaccine race is another challenge for GSK boss Emma Walmsley, who plans to split off the firm’s consumer health business to focus on new drugs and vaccines. 

She has come under fire from activist investors Elliott Management and Bluebell Capital, who have pushed for Walmsley to reapply for her own job. 

Astra’s news came as data showing symptoms from Omicron were less severe than those caused by previous variants of Covid-19. The optimism drove up shares in travel and leisure, with British Airways owner IAG climbing 2.1 per cent, or 2.98p, to 143.96p while Easyjet ascended 2.9 per cent, or 15.4p, to 552.2p and Wizz Air rose 2 per cent, or 85p, to 4316p. 

Premier Inn owner Whitbread added 0.4 per cent, or 13p, to 2963p and Holiday Inn owner Intercontinental Hotels, gained 0.9 per cent, or 42p, to 4713p. Publicans cheered, as Wetherspoons rose 2.6 per cent, or 23.5p, to 918p. Marston’s climbed 1.8 per cent, or 1.3p, to 74.35p, and Mitchells and Butlers was up 3.4 per cent, or 8p, to 246.6p.

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