UK approves new vaccine in world 1st
Published: Dec 30, 2020 06:53 PM
Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, as it battles a major winter surge driven by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus.

Britain has already ordered 100 million doses of the ­vaccine, and the government said it had accepted the ­recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to grant emergency authorization.

The approval is a vindication for a shot seen as essential for mass immunizations in the developing world as well as in Britain, but one that has been dogged by questions about its trial data that make it unlikely to be approved very soon in the EU or the US.

"The National Health Service will be able to deliver these shots into people's arms at the speed at which it can be manufactured," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News.

"I am also now, with this approval this morning, highly confident that we can get enough vulnerable people vaccinated by the spring that we can now see our route out of this pandemic."

He said hundreds of thousands of doses would be available to administer in Britain next week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the approval a "triumph for British science."

The vaccine has been found in trials to be less effective than one developed by Pfizer of the US and BioNTech of Germany but, crucially for countries with more basic health ­infrastructure, can be stored and transported under normal refrigeration, rather than at -70 C.

AstraZeneca said the authorization was for a two-dose regimen, and Hancock said the MHRA would set out more ­details on dosages later this week.

AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said the vaccine "has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit."

He also told BBC radio: "Our belief at this point is that this vaccine should be effective against the [new, more contagious] variant."
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