THE UNITED KINGDOM HAS become the first country to approve the use of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on Wednesday granted regulatory approval to the vaccine after determining that it met the “required safety, quality and effectiveness standards.”
“Following a rigorous, detailed scientific review by the MHRA’s expert scientists and clinicians and on the basis of the advice of its scientific, independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, the U.K. regulator has approved COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca for use across the U.K.,” the agency said.
The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca is the second to be approved in the U.K. after a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech was approved earlier this month. The vaccine has been approved for use in people 18 years and older and consists of two doses, with the second dose administered four to 12 weeks after the first.
The newly approved vaccine is less expensive and easier to store and distribute than Pfizer’s, which needs to be kept at extremely cold temperatures, limiting what facilities are able to store it. Oxford and AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be stored at temperatures similar to a conventional refrigerator, making it more accessible.
Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said in a statement that the company will work with the U.K. government to begin the first vaccinations next year, aiming to supply millions of doses by the end of March.
The U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization recommends a new immunization protocol, advising that priority should be to give the first dose of the vaccine to as many people as possible in at-risk groups administering a second dose, rather than providing the required two doses in as short a time as possible, Oxford University said.
“The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection, and everyone will still receive their second dose within 12 weeks of their first, an approach the JCVI believes will maximize the benefits of this vaccine, ensuring at-risk people are able to get meaningful protection and ease the pressure on the U.K. National Health Service,” the university said.
The university called the approval a “landmark moment,” and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that it is “truly fantastic news – and a triumph for British science.”