Safety and immunogenicity of a QazCovid-in® inactivated whole-virion vaccine against COVID-19 in healthy adults: A single-centre, randomised, single-blind, placebo-controlled phase 1 and an open-label phase 2 clinical trials with a 6 months follow-up in Kazakhstan

EClinicalMedicine. 2021 Sep;39:101078. doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101078. Epub 2021 Aug 14.


Background: A new inactivated whole-virion QazCovid-in® vaccine against COVID-19 was developed from SARS-CoV-2 isolated in Kazakhstan, inactivated by formaldehyde, and adjuvanted with aluminium hydroxide. Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials aimed at assessing the vaccine's safety, immunogenicity, and the duration of immunity induced by the QazCovid-in® vaccine after one or two immunisations.

Methods: From 23.09.2020 to 19.03.2021 we performed a randomised, single-blind, placebo-controlled phase 1 clinical trial and from 18.10.2020 to 17.04.2021 an open-label phase 2 clinical trials of the QazCovid-in® vaccine with a 6 months follow-up at a single centre in Almaty, the Republic of Kazakhstan. Eligible healthy adults aged 18 years and older with no history of laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were randomly assigned to the treatment groups using a computerised randomisation scheme generator. In the phase 1 clinical trial, two doses of the vaccine (5 μg each) or placebo (0·9% NaCl) were administered intramuscularly to 44 subjects aged 18-50 years, 21 days apart. In the phase 2 trial, 200 healthy participants were randomised into four equal-sized groups according to the age (18-49 or ≥50 years) and either single (day 1) or double (day 1 and 21) vaccination protocol. The primary outcomes were safety and tolerability. The secondary outcome was immunogenicity. The cellular response was measured by a whole-blood cytokine release assay (phase 1 only). The trials were registered with NCT04530357.

Findings: The QazCovid-in® vaccine was safe and well-tolerated and induced predominantly mild adverse events; no serious or severe adverse events were recorded in both trials. In the phase 1 trial, the percentage of subjects with a fourfold increase of antibody titres (sero conversion) in MNA was 59% after one vaccine dose and amounted to 100% after two doses. Neutralizing antibody titres reached the geometric mean titre (GMT) of 100 after administration of two doses. A statistically significant increase in the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines after vaccination indicated the Th1-biased response. On day 180, 40% of placebo-treated subjects demonstrated a statistically significant increase in the levels of antibodies measured by both ELISA and MNA, which suggests the infection with SARS-CoV-2. In the phase 2 trial, 100% of subjects aged 18-49 years seroconverted for SARS-CoV-2 on day 21 after the first dose, as indicated by MNA yielding the GMTs of 32 or 30 in the one- and two-dose groups, respectively. Amongst ≥50-year-old subjects, the number of sero conversions in the two- and one-dose groups on day 21 was 94% and 92% with the respective GMTs of 25 and 24. After the second dose, the sero conversion rate reached 100%; however, the GMT was significantly lower when compared with the corresponding value measured in subjects aged 18-49 years (83 vs 143). In both trials, specific antibodies were detected in MNA and ELISA on study day 180, but the titres dropped in comparison to day 42. The results of this study serve as the rationale for the phase 3 study.

Interpretation: The QazCovid-in® vaccine is safe and well-tolerated and promotes pronounced humoral immunity which lasts for at least 6 months after double intramuscular immunisation.

Funding: The work was funded by the Science Committee of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan within the framework of the Scientific and Technical Program "Development of a vaccine against coronavirus infection COVID-1900 . State registration number ?.0927.

Associated data