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UK approves AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 30 - 12 - 2020

Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, as it battles a major winter surge driven by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus, Reuters reported.
Matt Hancock, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said that the vaccine would be made available to some of the poorest regions of the world at a low cost, helping protect countless people from this awful disease.
"It is a tribute to the incredible UK scientists at Oxford University and AstraZeneca whose breakthrough will help to save lives around the world. I want to thank every single person who has been part of this British success story. While it is a time to be hopeful, it is so vital everyone continues to play their part to drive down infections," he added.
The approval paves the way for millions more people to be immunized against the virus, with the UK ordering 100 million doses from AstraZeneca, which can vaccinate 50 million people.
The NHS has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of patients with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the government said its rollout would continue.
The health service will now start preparing to roll out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, with hopes to begin administering the jabs in the New Year.
Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, the newly approved vaccine can be stored at room temperature rather than -70C, which means it will be easier to transport to care homes and doctor's surgeries.
It is also cheap and easy to mass-produce, which will help the UK quickly expand its immunization campaign.
"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," Westminster said in a statement.
"This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness."
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot hailed the "important day" for the millions who would get the jab.
He said: "It has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit. We would like to thank our many colleagues at AstraZeneca, Oxford University, the UK government and the tens of thousands of clinical trial participants.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) will also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive this vaccine. It has advised a shift in strategy, with priority to be given to getting as many people as possible 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 UK government said.
It added that administering the vaccines in this way will maximize the benefits of both vaccines, according to the JCVI's advice.
"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." — Agencies


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