The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday amid rising coronavirus cases. The UK has ordered 100 million doses – enough to vaccinate 50 million people. This will cover the entire population when combined with the full order of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
It comes as millions of more people in England are expected to be placed under the toughest tier four restrictions. On Tuesday, 53,135 new Covid cases were recorded in the UK – the highest single-day rise since mass testing began – as well as 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Dr. June Raine, head of the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory products Agency (MHRA), said the vaccine would save tens of thousands of lives, adding “no corners have been cut” in assessing the safety and effectiveness of the jab.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the vaccine development “a triumph” for British science, adding: “We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.” And England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty praised the “considerable collective effort that has brought us to this point”.
Vaccination centers will now start inviting patients to come and get the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine from next week. It is considered essential because it is easier to store and distribute – it can be kept at normal fridge temperature unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab that has to be kept at -70C.
There is also more confidence about supply as it is UK-made, whereas the Pfizer-BioNTech jab has to be shipped in from Belgium. The hope is around two million patients a week could soon be vaccinated with two vaccines now approved.
British Medical Association GP leader Dr. Richard Vautrey said it “should certainly be possible” if there is a good supply.
Speaking on a local tv channel, Mr. Hancock said it marked a “significant moment” in the fight against the virus, adding that “2021 can be a year of hope and recovery because we can see our way out of the pandemic”.
More than 600,000 people in the UK have been vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab since Margaret Keenan became the first in the world to be given a Covid vaccine outside of clinical trials.