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Medical syringes are seen with AstraZeneca and University of Oxford logos displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Experts are still trying to make sense of AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine.

The big question: Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. Why would a lower dose be more effective?

The intrigue: The 90% figure has gotten a lot more attention because it’s a lot more impressive, but it may be a somewhat distorted picture.

  • In clinical trials for the vaccine, the half-dose version — the one with 90% efficacy — was tested on a group that didn’t include anyone older than 55, Bloomberg reports from a briefing by Operation Warp Speed officials.
  • The half-dose version was a mistake, owing to some under-filled vials.

The other side: Some researchers believe the difference is real, and not a data issue.

  • Smaller doses may be more effective in stimulating certain parts of the body’s immune response, or that a larger dose may blunt the body’s response to some parts of the virus, according to an article in Nature.

Our thought bubble: All we’ve seen so far, for all three vaccines, are press releases. Experts still need to see scientific, peer-reviewed findings.

  • “I'm glad this is not the first vaccine to read out, because it is awfully confusing for experts and non-experts alike,” University of Florida professor Natalie Dean, an expert on vaccine clinical trial design, said in a Twitter thread.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 23, 2021 - Health

Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

Latest James Bond movie release delayed for third time

An advertisement poster featuring Daniel Craig in the new James Bond movie "No Time to Die" in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images

The release of the latest James Bond film, "No Time to Die," has been postponed for the third time as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate Hollywood.

The state of play: The film's release, initially scheduled for April 2020, was first postponed to November 2020, and then to April 2021. MGM said this week that movie's global debut will now be delayed until Oct. 8.