The UK Government has accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses, with the first set to be given on Monday. The NHS has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of patients with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which will continue, but now extensive preparations will be put into action to roll out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The important difference between the two approved vaccines is that the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at domestic fridge temperature (2-8 degrees C), so can be easily administered in existing healthcare settings, allowing for the vaccine to be deployed very rapidly. It is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus), that has been genetically changed so that it is safe and impossible for it to grow in humans.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the priority should be to give as many people in at-risk groups their first dose, rather than providing the required two doses in as short a time as possible. Everyone will still receive their second dose and this will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection.
The JCVI’s independent advice is that this approach will maximise the benefits of both vaccines. It will ensure that more at-risk people are able to get meaningful protection from a vaccine in the coming weeks and months, reducing deaths and starting to ease pressure on our NHS. The JCVI will publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive this vaccine.
Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, said: “The regulator’s assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment, and an endorsement of the huge effort from a devoted international team of researchers and our dedicated trial participants.’
“Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible.”
Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said: “This is a day for the team developing the vaccine to celebrate, after a year of extremely hard work under difficult circumstances. Now that the first authorisation or use of the vaccine outside of clinical trials has been granted, we still have more to do and will continue to provide more data to multiple regulatory authorities, until we are able to see the vaccine being used to save lives around the world.”
Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute said: “For the past 25 years, staff at the Jenner Institute have worked to develop vaccines using novel technologies to protect people around the world from diseases that claim many lives each year. The work on ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 builds on many years of research by a dedicated team of vaccinologists, and we are delighted to see the first emergency use licensure.”