Islam News – United Kingdome became the first in the world to approve the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals, hoping that rapid action would offer a route out of the pandemic for large parts of the world.
The UK government said it would follow a new immunization strategy for the vaccine, which will prioritize giving the first in a series of two vaccine doses to as many people as possible, before administering a second dose up to 12 weeks later – CNN reported.
This will apply to both the newly approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which is already being rolled out.
“The scientists and the regulators have looked at the data and found that you get what they call ‘very effective protection’ from the first dose. The second dose is still important — especially for the long-term protection — but it does mean that we will be able to vaccinate more people more quickly than we previously could,” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News on Wednesday.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will launch on January 4. The news represents a glimmer of hope for the UK at a time when its health services are struggling to cope with soaring infection rates linked to a new, more contagious variant of the virus.
AstraZeneca has promised to supply hundreds of millions of doses to low and middle-income countries, and to deliver the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis to those nations in perpetuity.
The vaccine is significantly cheaper than others which have been approved, thus, it would be far easier to transport and distribute in developing countries than its rivals since it does not need to be stored at freezing temperatures.
Though cheaper and easier to distribute than rival vaccines, the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot has been plagued with questions about its most effective dosage ever since data published last month showed some surprising results – Reuters reported.
While other regulators have taken a more cautious approach, Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was at pains to say it had resolved early doubts and – unexpectedly – that it had found an 80% success rate for the administration of two full doses, three months apart, higher than the average that the developers themselves had found.
Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) — the UK regulatory body — told a televised Downing Street briefing Wednesday that the newly approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could save “tens of thousands” of lives.
And she insisted that the public could have every confidence in its safety, effectiveness and quality.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the vaccine’s approval on Twitter as “truly fantastic news — and a triumph for British science.” He added: “We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible,” as CNN report read.
The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine could also be a game-changer for global immunisation.
World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the latest vaccine was important for its “delivery attributes, the potential scale and affordability” as Reuters report stated.
What about EU approval?
The EU regulator says it has not yet received full data on the AstraZeneca shot and is unlikely to be able to approve it next month.
The UK’s COVID-19 vaccine chair, Wei Shen Lim, said a single dose of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s vaccine was around 70% effective from 21 days until a second dose was given at 12 weeks.
The UK MHRA cleared up one doubt raised by the Oxford data, saying that a 90% success rate for a half-dose followed by a full dose had not stood up to analysis.
However, Munir Pirmohamed, chair of a government working group on COVID-19 vaccines and involved in the approval, said that, when two full doses were given three months apart, “effectiveness was high, up to 80% … which is the reason for our recommendation.”