UK set to approve COVID-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, giving the country another powerful tool to fight the pandemic as concern grows over rising infections.
The British drug regulator could authorize the use of the vaccine as early as this week, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot and UK health officials previously said they hoped for approval by the end of the year.
The green light is said to come about three weeks after the UK became the first Western country to start vaccinations, using an injection of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE which has been administered to over 600,000 Britons. Still, cases of the virus have increased in Britain amid concerns over a new strain of the coronavirus which officials say is more contagious.
This prompted the government to reverse plans to ease Christmas restrictions and tighten lockdowns in large parts of the country. These measures could be relaxed at the end of February as the imminent approval of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine can vaccinate up to 15 million of the country’s most vulnerable people, the Mail on Sunday reported. The country’s health service would no longer risk being overwhelmed with cases of the virus once that threshold is reached, the newspaper said.
The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency will need time to complete a review of vaccine data, the Department of Health and Welfare said via email. Representatives for the MHRA and AstraZeneca declined to comment.
The AstraZeneca vaccine could facilitate a rapid ramp-up of vaccinations because it is easier to transport and store than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, requiring only refrigerator temperatures rather than freezing. It’s also cheaper to produce, so many developing countries – along with the United States and the European Union – have signed agreements for doses as well. The vaccine could be rolled out across Britain from January 4, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
UK approval would justify the AstraZeneca-Oxford firing, which was slowed down by questions about the discrepancies in the test results. Overall, these studies showed the vaccine to be less effective than injections from Pfizer and another developer, Moderna Inc. But a subset of the trial that showed better results was the result of an error. dosage.
The UK uses the nationally developed vaccine more than the US and some other countries because it won’t be able to get any Moderna vaccine until next year.
Soriot told theSunday Timesthat new data will show that the AstraZeneca vaccine is comparable to the 95% efficacy rate reported by competing developers.
“We think we have found the winning formula and how to achieve efficacy that after two doses is up there with everyone,” he told the newspaper. “I can’t tell you more as we will post at some point.”
Soriot previously said the vaccine wason the right trackfor large-scale vaccinations by the end of the year. England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, had said heexpectedthe MHRA to act early next year or possibly sooner.
Mass vaccination centers at sports stadiums and conference venues are expected to start in the second week of January, the Telegraph reported. Government officials will hold a meeting on the pandemic on Monday after scientists warned that school closures may be needed to slow the spread of the new Covid-19 variant, the newspaper said.
The country has been one of the hardest hit in Europe with more than 70,000 dead, the most in the region after Italy. Much of the UK has been subject to the most stringent Level 4 restrictions, which ban the mixing of households and have forced pubs, restaurants and many businesses to close, after the discovery earlier this month of the most contagious strain.
The rate of increase of the virus, known as the R number, is estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.3 as of December 24, according to the latest government data. A reading greater than 1.0 indicates that the spread of the virus is accelerating. The UK reported 34,693 additional cases and 210 deaths on December 26.
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