The United Kingdom authorized AstraZeneca Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine for use, making it the first in the world to do so. This is the UK’s second time to clear a coronavirus vaccine for immediate use on its citizenry. The approval happened weeks after the country started vaccinating British residents. Earlier, it approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for use.
MHRA Approves New Vaccine
In a statement, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave its authorization for the AstraZeneca Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. The MHRA said that “rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA” preceded the approval.
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Furthermore, the vaccine met “strict standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness.” The statement added that “The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan and decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programs. It has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of patients with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and its rollout will continue. Now the NHS will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to roll out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.”
70% – 90% Efficacy
The AstraZeneca Oxford development team said their vaccine resulted in an “an average efficacy of 70%.” One dosing regimen showed an efficacy of 90%. Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, reported the results back in November. “Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens maybe around 90% effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with a planned vaccine supply,” he said.
AstraZeneca committed to supplying millions of doses to low and middle-income countries. The company also promised to deliver the vaccines on a not-for-profit basis to target nations as long as needed.
Cheaper than Other Vaccines
AstraZeneca Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine costs significantly cheaper than its rivals. Additionally, the vaccine is easier to transport and distribute to its target areas. For one, the vaccine does not need cold storage facilities. Azra Ghani, chair in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College, agrees. “I think it’s the only vaccine that can be used in those settings at the current time,” he said. Cold chain refrigeration is the global standard storage for vaccines from a central location to local clinics. AstraZeneca Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine is so far “the only one that can definitely be delivered to those systems,” added Ghani.
Health officials can safely store the AstraZeneca Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in refrigerators between 36 to 46o F (2 to 8o C). In comparison, Moderna’s vaccine needs storage temperatures of -4o F (-20o C), or refrigerator temperatures for 30 days only. Then, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires -103o F (-75o C), and needs to be used within five days. “Pfizer and Moderna require freezer storage, and that just isn’t in place in many settings,” Ghani added.
Just in Time
The additional vaccines could not have come at a more opportune time. Last Tuesday, the UK recorded 53,135 new coronavirus cases. This is the highest number of cases in a single day since the UK began mass testing. The country also recorded 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded the new vaccine addition. He called it “a triumph” for British science. He said, “We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty gave praise to the “considerable collective effort that has brought us to this point.” Health Secretary Matt Hancock thinks that next year “can be a year of hope and recovery because we can see our way out of the pandemic.”
Watch the BBC News video reporting that the UK approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for use:
Given its easier storage and cheap costs, AstraZeneca Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine can drastically help address the current availability issues for most countries. Do you foresee getting approval in the US soon? Let us know what you think by sharing your comments below.