Covid: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in the UK

Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan

The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, the country's medicine regulator has announced.

It is the second Covid-19 jab to be approved for use in the UK, following the BioNTech/Pfizer jab's approval just over three weeks ago.

The Oxford vaccine's approval has been described as a "game changer", with the UK having ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine - enough to vaccinate 50 million people.

Speaking to ITV News this morning, Mr Hancock said: "This is a Great British success story.

"The vaccine is so important because it's our way out of this and now we know that we can get out by the spring, we can start to life those restrictions that everyone wants to see the back of.

"The NHS has a delivery plan to make sure we vaccinate people according to clinical need, as soon as we possibly can."

Mr Hancock implied the UK could vaccinate up to two million people a week, beginning on January 4, as he said the country could deliver the jab "at the pace AstraZeneca can manufacture".

Earlier on Wednesday, the firm said it would produce two million doses a week.

  • Matt Hancock suggests UK could vaccinate two million people a week after Oxford vaccine approved

The MHRA said at a briefing the jab will be delivered in two standard doses, the second about four to 12 weeks after the first.

Analysis of the efficacy of the half dose uncovered during earlier trials was not borne out, it said.

The approval comes at a time when the second, more transmissable variant of Covid is sweeping across the country - with 53,000 new cases reported on Tuesday alone.

One of the advantages of the Oxford vaccine is that it can be stored at fridge temperature, unlike the BioNTech/Pfizer jab which needs to be stored close to -70C, meaning the practical rollout of the jab throughout the UK should be easier.

At less than £3 per dose, the Oxford vaccine is far cheaper than the BioNTech/Pfizer jab, which costs roughly £15 per dose.

An Oxford researcher in a laboratory at the Jenner Institute working on the coronavirus vaccine Credit: John Cairns/University of Oxford/PA

AstraZeneca's chief executive Pascal Soriot said it aimed to provide millions of doses in the first quarter of next year as part of its agreement with the UK government.

Mr Soriot said: "Today is an important day for millions of people in the UK who will get access to this new vaccine. It has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit."

The approval of the Oxford vaccine will help immunise millions of Britons. Credit: PA

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for use.

"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."

Data published in The Lancet medical journal in early December showed the vaccine was 62% effective in preventing Covid-19 among a group of 4,440 people given two standard doses of the vaccine when compared with 4,455 people given a placebo drug.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Of 1,367 people given a half first dose of the vaccine followed by a full second dose, there was 90% protection against Covid-19 when compared with a control group of 1,374 people.

The overall Lancet data, which was peer-reviewed, set out full results from clinical trials of more than 20,000 people.

Among the people given the placebo drug, 10 were admitted to hospital with coronavirus, including two with severe Covid which resulted in one death.

But among those receiving the vaccine, there were no hospital admissions or severe cases. The half dose followed by a full dose regime came about as a result of an accidental dosing error.

However, the MHRA was made aware of what happened and clinical trials for the vaccine were allowed to continue.