The Oxford/AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine has now been approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
It means that the UK now has two vaccines that it can roll out in its response to the Coronavirus pandemic, with the first doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine set to be rolled out from next week.
The vaccine was developed at Oxford University with the support of British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that was approved earlier this month, has been developed and approved for a use in under a year since the pandemic hit the UK.
In a tweet on Wednesday morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock thanked all those involved in developing the vaccine. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the approval of the vaccine as ‘truly fantastic news – and a triumph for British science.’
The UK has ordered around £100m doses of the vaccine, which is thought to be 62%-90% effective and can be stored at a normal fridge temperature. It is hoped that the rollout of the vaccine may be easier than the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be stored at -70°C.
On the approval of the vaccine, Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, said:
‘The regulator’s assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment, and an endorsement of the huge effort from a devoted international team of researchers and our dedicated trial participants.’
‘Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible.’
The vaccination programme in the UK will shift slightly to giving as many people as possible the first doses of either approved vaccine, with this effectively doubling the number of people given some protection against COVID-19. The second dose, which gives extra protection, will be administered up to three months after the first dose.
Each UK nation is to receive an allocation of the vaccine based on its populations over the next weeks and months.
People are being asked not to phone their GP, pharmacy or hospital regarding the vaccine, and are being advised that they will be invited to receive the vaccine when it is available to them.