Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine approved in UK for mass rollout
A Covid-19 vaccine from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has been approved for use in the UK, paving the way for mass rollout.
The jab, which has been described as a ‘game changer’, was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the approval is ‘fantastic news’ and confirmed the rollout will begin on January 4, including to care homes.
He told Sky News: ‘I am now, with this approval this morning, highly confident that we can get enough vulnerable people vaccinated by the spring that we can now see the route out of this pandemic.’
He said there would be a difficult few weeks ahead ‘but we also know that there is a route out of this’.
He added: ‘The vaccine provides that route out. We have all just got to hold our nerve over the weeks to come.’
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: ‘News that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved by the UK regulator paving the way for millions more vaccinations, with the first doses due to be given next week, is extremely welcome.
‘It is going to be a difficult few weeks ahead with rising coronavirus cases and keeping the virus under control, but today’s development is a game changer for our city’s future’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘It is truly fantastic news - and a triumph for British science - that the @UniofOxford/@AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use.
‘We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.’
The news comes amid increasing strain on hospitals in England, where the number of Covid-19 patients is the highest it has been during the pandemic.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford University vaccine - enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
Mr Hancock said the plan is to vaccinate all vulnerable groups first but that eventually all adults, including the under-50s, will be offered a jab.
England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the jab is ‘safe and effective’, adding: ‘It is very good news that the independent regulator has now authorised for use the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.’
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers, will publish its latest guidance on who should receive the vaccine and in which order later.
Data published in The Lancet medical journal in early December showed the vaccine was 62 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 among a group of 4,440 people given two standard doses of the vaccine when compared with 4,455 people given a placebo drug.
Of 1,367 people given a half first dose of the vaccine followed by a full second dose, there was 90 per cent protection against Covid-19 when compared with a control group of 1,374 people.
The MHRA has authorised two full doses of the vaccine to be given to people.
People receiving the Oxford vaccine or the one from Pfizer/BioNTech, which is also being rolled out, will now receive their first dose of the vaccine followed by a second dose up to 12 weeks later.
The aim is to give as many people as possible a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.