The United Kingdom on Wednesday became the first country in the world to authorize the use of the COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford and AstraZeneca.
It is an easy-to-handle vaccine, the developers of which hope it will become the “vaccine for the world.”
The approval and policy change that will accelerate the use of the vaccine in the UK comes as a surge in infections threatens to overwhelm British hospitals.
“The rollout will start on January 4 and really pick up speed in the first few weeks of next year,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News. The UK has bought 100 million doses of the vaccine.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told BBC Radio 4 that the company could start shipping the first doses of the vaccine on Wednesday or Thursday “and vaccination will start next week and we will hit a million – and beyond. that – in a week, very quickly. “
Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK have already received a different vaccine, made by the US drug manufacturer Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech.
Soriot said it was “an important day for millions of people in the UK who will have access to this new vaccine.” It has been shown to be effective, well tolerated, easy to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca without any benefit. “
Coronavirus vaccines have typically been given in two doses, with an initial injection followed by a booster about three weeks later.
A single dose to immunize more people
But in a shift in focus, the British government said that with the AstraZeneca vaccine it would prioritize the administration of a single dose to as many people as possible, which is believed to provide a great measure of protection against the virus. He said people at the highest risk would take priority, with everyone receiving a second injection within 12 weeks of the first.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has passed the first peak of the outbreak in the spring, with authorities blaming a new, more transmissible variant of the virus, first identified in south-east England.
Oxford University’s Dr Andrew Pollard, one of the development team leaders, hopes the newly approved vaccine will help.
“At the moment, there is no evidence that vaccines do not work against the new variant,” Pollard told Radio 4. “But that is something we have to look at. We cannot be complacent with this variant or perhaps future variants.”
Partial results of studies of nearly 24,000 people in the UK, Brazil and South Africa suggest that vaccines are safe and around 70% effective in preventing the disease from coronavirus infection.
That’s not as good as other vaccine candidates, but Soriot recently told the Sunday Times that she was confident the vaccine would be as effective as its rivals.
Low price and easy storage
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be used in many countries due to its low cost, availability, and ease of use. It can be kept in refrigerators instead of the ultra cold storage that some other vaccines require. The company has said it will sell it for $ 2.50 per dose and plans to make up to 3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
“We have a vaccine for the world,” Pollard said.