Britain on Wednesday turned into the principal nation on the planet to endorse a COVID vaccine created by Oxford University and AstraZeneca as it fights a significant winter flood driven by another, exceptionally infectious variation of the infection.
AstraZeneca said the approval was for a two dose regime and that the vaccine had been approved for use for emergency supply. Britain has requested 100 million doses of the vaccine.
“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorize Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use,” the health ministry said.
Britain is already rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In a change of approach, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said 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.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said the MHRA would set out more details on the dosing regimen later on Wednesday.
Regulatory endorsement is a welcome boost for AstraZeneca and the Oxford group, which have been accused for a lack of lucidity about the outcomes from late-stage trials.
“Today is an important day for millions of people in the UK who will get access to this new vaccine,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said. “It has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit.”
Pooled results from those trials show it had overall efficacy of 70.4%. Efficacy was 62% for trial participants given two full doses, but 90% for a smaller sub-group given a half, then a full dose.
Researchers said that the finding of 90% efficacy for the low-dose/high-dose regime needed more investigation. AstraZeneca did not specify which dose regime had been approved.
Questions also remain about how well the vaccine protects older people. Only 12% of study participants were over 55 and they were enrolled later, so there hasn’t been enough time to see whether they develop infections at a lower rate than those not given the vaccine.
“To get out of this debacle there is no alternative to having a significant majority of the population carrying a high level of neutralizing antibodies. With the present announcement that comes within our grasp,” said Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London.
“I suspect this will speed things for a while. An immune populace by the spring begins to look feasible.”
Hancock agreed that the approval provides a path out of the pandemic by the spring, by which time he said millions of vulnerable people will be protected.
“The NHS will be able to deliver these shots into people’s arms at the speed at which it can be manufactured,” he 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 the recommended 12-week gap between the first and second doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot was “very helpful” because it enabled more people to be immunized with a first shot that offered a high level of protection on its own.
The pandemic has already killed 1.7 million people around the world, sown chaos through the global economy and upended normal life for billions since it began in Wuhan, China, a year ago.
Britain and South Africa in particular are grappling with new variants of the COVID, which the government and scientists say are more contagious. Numerous nations have reacted by banning passenger flights and blocking trade.
AstraZeneca and other developers have said they are studying the impact of the new variant however expect that their shots will be effective against it. The vaccine is one of two candidates as of now going through a rolling review by Health Canada, along with one developed by Johnson and Johnson. The agency has not said when approval might come for the AstraZeneca shot.
This news is originally posted on global.news.ca