WATCH: AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine approved by UK regulator
The UK said on Wednesday it will authorise the Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the country. AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) shares were up roughly 3.3% Wednesday morning.
Heath secretary Matt Hancock hailed this as “a great success story” on BBC Radio 4 and said “the government can now accelerate its delivery plan so we we can bring this pandemic to an end faster than we previously would have been able to. The vaccine is our way out of this.”
“I hope we can be out of this by the spring,” he added.
The government has said the decision to approve the vaccine “follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.”
It aso said the NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan and decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes. It has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of patients with the Pfizer (PFE) /BioNTech (BNTX) vaccine.
The government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised that 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 Department of Health and Social Care explained.
“With two vaccines now approved, we will be able to vaccinate a greater number of people who are at highest risk, protecting them from the disease and reducing mortality and hospitalisation,” it said.
It was reported earlier that mass vaccination centres at conference venues and sports stadiums are primed to launch in the second week of next month, provided MHRA approves the vaccine.
The NHS is to give top priority to vaccinating those aged 80 and above. Frontline healthcare workers, care home staff and residents will also be among those first in line.
NHS calculations suggest up to 46,000 staff would be needed to deliver the vaccination programme, assuming a 75% take-up rate.
The UK government has ordered 100 million jabs of the Oxford vaccine, with 40 million due to be rolled out by March next year.
WATCH: UK hails ‘significant moment’ as Oxford COVID-19 vaccine given green light
The UK recorded 210 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, down from 570 the day before, while cases rose 1,968 to 34,693, the government said.
The UK has recorded a total death toll of 70,405 over the weekend, defined as those dying within 28 days of a positive test. Under this measure, it is the world’s sixth largest toll, after the United States, Brazil, India, Mexico and Italy.
The latest R number in Britain is estimated at 1.1 to 1.3.
A report from earlier this month showed that the government will spend up to £11.7bn ($15.8bn) on securing vaccines for the UK and rolling them out in England, as well as potentially covering drugmakers’ costs if they face legal action.
Meanwhile, the UK economy has been ravaged by the pandemic this year — GDP has fallen by historic amounts, unemployment has soared, and government debt has reached its highest point in post-war history. Companies have been forced into painful restructurings and entire industries have faced unprecedented disruption.
Earlier this month, UK prime minister Boris Johnson dramatically cancelled Christmas for millions across London and the South East amid fears a new strain of the virus is taking hold and spreading more rapidly.
Non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and bowling alleys will be forced to close, he had said, dealing another blow to the hospitality industry.
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