UK approves Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19, becomes the first country to authorize it for emergency use

UK becomes the first country to authorize Oxford-AstraZeneca for emergency use.

Government of the UK has approved and authorized the new Covid-19 vaccine introduced by the collaboration of the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, a global biopharmaceutical company. The approval came after the recommendation from the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the UK. The recommendation by the MHRA was forwarded to the government after strict clinical trials and expert analysis of all the available data, according to a Press Release by the government of the UK. 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the US Food and Drug Administration are yet to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The FDA in the US will not approve this vaccine until the late-stage trials end, while the EMA has still not received any application for approval of the vaccine from AstraZeneca.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has got noteworthy support in the US as well even before its approval. The federal government in the US has pre-ordered 300 million doses of this vaccine. The government also announced that it has already promised about $1.2 billion to assist the research and development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the Covid-19 virus.

The vaccine will be available in the UK from next week with the first doses to be given on Monday. BBC reports that the UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine and 530,000 doses will be available from next week in the country. Senior citizens who are over 80 years, care home residents and workers, and health workers will be prioritized for vaccination. Later on, everyone over the age of 50 and young adults with a medical history will be given the vaccine in the first phase. 

The vaccines that have been introduced so far are for all the people 18 years and older. No company has still announced the vaccine for children and it can’t be given to them until it is tested on this age group. 

Moderna stated on Wednesday that it is going to start testing the vaccine on children from age 12 to 17 years. The trials will include 3000 children with half the children getting two vaccine doses with a gap of four weeks, and the rest will be given placebo doses of saltwater. 

Pfizer also announced in October that it will begin testing the vaccine on children who are of the age 12 years and older as children are not yet allowed to receive the Covid vaccine.

Like Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, AstraZeneca vaccine also requires two doses for each recipient. The government is currently giving the Pfizer vaccine doses 12 weeks apart and has planned to give the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine with a similar gap. Pfizer-BioNtech, however, claims that their vaccine is not designed to be given with a gap of 12 weeks. And some firms report that they didn’t find any evidence of the first shot working beyond the third week. 

The elongated gap between two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has two reasons. BBC writes, the vaccination campaign now looks to target as many recipients as possible for the first dose. According to the source, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was initially planned to be given with a gap of three weeks, but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization in the UK proposed to widen the gap so that a greater number of people can get the first dose of vaccine. 

The price of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is set at $3 to $4 per dose

The second reason for a 12-week gap between the two doses of the vaccine, particularly the Oxford-AstraZeneca, is that the vaccine shows impressive results even with a wider gap between the two doses, the producers claim. Most volunteers during the British clinical trials were given the second dose after roughly nine weeks of the first one, and the results showed a 73% efficient protection before the second shot. They also claim that the protection raised to 80% when the vaccine doses were given roughly three months apart. 

Unlike Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the Oxford vaccine for Covid-19 is much cheaper and easier to store, according to the BBC. The price of this vaccine is set at $3 to $4 per dose. About 2bn doses of the vaccine will also be provided to 92 low and middle-income countries for $3 per dose, as part of Covax, a global initiative.  

The shelf life of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also way more than those of Pfizer and Moderna. This vaccine can be stored in a normal refrigerator for about six months. The temperature needed to store this vaccine is 2-8 degrees Celsius, which makes it easily and quickly transportable as it doesn’t need to be kept in central hospitals and community hubs. 

Featured image: JustinTallis/AFP

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