THE coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University has taken a big step forward.

The latest findings from the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, published in journal The Lancet this morning, showed a strong immune response in the elderly, the age group most at risk.

Andrew Pollard, of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said he was "absolutely delighted" with the results as the focus now turns to developing a vaccine that stops people catching the virus.

Professor Pollard, professor of pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford University, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The reason we're so delighted is we're seeing the immune responses are exactly the same, even in those who are over 70 years of age.

"The other thing that we found, which I think is really important, is that it's extremely well tolerated in adults over 55."

Older people's weaker immune systems tend to mean vaccines do not function as effectively for them, but the latest Oxford trials showed a similar response in adults aged over 56 to 18 to 55-year-olds.

Read also: Yesterday's coronavirus update for Oxford and Oxfordshire

They were also less likely to experience side-effects, while there were no serious safety issues surrounding the jab.

Phase two was tested on 560 healthy adult volunteers, while the findings from the larger phase three trial are expected in the next few weeks.

Once these are shown to be successful and approved by regulators they can be rolled out to the general public.

But Mr Pollard stressed the need to be patient, adding: "We haven't quite got to that point yet, we don't want to rush that.

"We want to make sure we've got all the information required.

"We are working seven days a week, as we have been since the start of the year."

Read also: True number of Oxford coronavirus cases finally revealed

He added: "We're still at the bottom of that mountain in some ways, but we've done the long trek to get to the start.

"Now we've got to get the data about the vaccines in front of regulators for them to scrutinise it and approve the first vaccines.

"Then we've got that huge effort to climb up to the top where we've got the vast majority of those at risk vaccinated and protected so that the most vulnerable are no longer at risk and we can start to get back to normal."

One Oxford vaccine trial volunteer, Oxfordshire resident Sarah Hurst, revealed she did not experience any adverse side-effects.

She told the PA news agency: “I was so surprised.

“I said to them, ‘I feel like I am in the placebo group because I feel nothing at all, no raised temperature, nothing’, and they said, ‘well we chose meningitis as the placebo because we thought it would provoke a reaction so that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference’.

“But I treated it as if I’d had the placebo anyway, so not going out and feeling confident just because I had it.”

The 47-year-old said she signed up to the trial because she “wanted a vaccine as quickly as possible so we can live our lives again”.

Dr Michael Tildesley, who sits on a sub-group for the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told BBC Breakfast he hoped the Oxford vaccine would be "one of the key game changers” because the number of doses acquired by the government will allow the UK to “hopefully reach that magic herd immunity”.

It follows good preliminary data from phase three trials of the Pfizer, Sputnik and Moderna vaccines.

The UK has already ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, as well as 40 million from Pfizer and five million of the Moderna jab.

Read also: 'Oxford vaccine success boosted by other Covid jab results'

Ms Hurst added that the results of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines set a “high bar” for the AstraZeneca study.

She said: “It could be a bit disappointing if it got 80 per cent and you feel, ‘oh, those other ones are better’.

"I am not biased in favour of a particular vaccine but people are going to prefer to have the one that’s the most effective and it depends on what’s available.

“I am really concerned about the Brexit end of the transition period, I have no confidence at all that we are going to get supplies, so if our result wasn’t as good as the other two and we got 80 per cent, I’d be happy to have that vaccine if that was all that was available.

"It would still be good. But I hope it’s 90 per cent or more.”

Professor Pollard said: “We’re really looking globally, we want to be able to get to every corner of the world if indeed the vaccine is shown to work.

“The thing that matters with vaccines is the impact it can have, and that is, can you get it to people and are they being vaccinated, so until you’ve got high coverage and you’re able to prevent the disease in those who are most vulnerable, we won’t get there.

“That’s why we need multiple vaccines to be successful. It’s fantastic news that Pfizer and Moderna have got there, and clearly will be getting themselves prepared for their regulatory submissions.

“But there’s no competition between them and the other vaccines, we need all of them to be successful, because we’ve got a lot of people to protect all around the globe.”