Covid vaccine: 'UK one-dose strategy absolutely right way to go' says AstraZeneca boss

Credit: PA/AP

The boss of AstraZeneca has said the UK's Covid vaccine strategy - vaccinating more people with a single dose and delaying the second - is "absolutely the right way to go".

The pharmaceutical company partnered with Oxford University to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine that is currently being rolled out.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, chief executive Pascal Soriot said for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine the UK's "one-dose strategy [...] is the best way".

He also estimated that by March, 28-30 million people in the UK will have been vaccinated.

His comments come amid criticism of the government's decision to delay offering a second vaccine jab, with chief medical officer Chris Whitty forced to defend the move - arguing it allowed for more people to be offered a level of immunity against the virus.

Ralph Evans, 88, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: PA

"I think the UK one-dose strategy is absolutely the right way to go, at least for our vaccine. I cannot comment about the Pfizer vaccine," Mr Soriot said.

"For our vaccine, there is no doubt in my mind that the way the UK is going is the best way, because right now you have a limited amount of vaccine, but also you have a limited number of doctors and nurses able to inject people.

"So you maximise the number of people who get one dose.

"You give them enough protection for two or three months, then you give them the second dose after three months."

The EU fallout with AstraZeneca has intensified in recent days Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The pharmaceutical boss said the country would also reach Boris Johnson's goal "to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February".

The chief executive also addressed the growing row with the European Union over the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The company pulled out of a meeting with the bloc to discuss delayed vaccine commitments on Wednesday, according to an EU official.

It comes after the EU threatened to impose tight controls on the export of vaccines after AstraZeneca warned it would not be able to deliver as many jabs in the first quarter as originally promised.

Mr Soriot pointed to the fact the company signed a vaccine deal with the EU three months after the contract with the UK.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Credit: PA

"We've also had teething issues like this in the UK supply chain. But the UK contract was signed three months before the European vaccine deal," he said.

"So with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced. As for Europe, we are three months behind in fixing those glitches."

The EU has expressed growing frustration, however, with Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides saying on Monday: "The EU wants the ordered and pre-financed doses to be delivered as soon as possible, and we want our contract to be fully fulfilled".

Speaking to La Repubblica, Mr Soriot repeated the point: "I can only tell you the facts and the facts are that we basically signed an agreement with the UK three months before we did have it with Europe.

"When we entered the agreement with Oxford, they had already been working with the UK government on this. So they had a head start. We were able to quite quickly take the UK supply chain and improve it."

He described the lack of supply for the EU as "really bad luck".

Many elderly people are now eligible for their booster jab and they're being encouraged to take up invitations for their third dose. Credit: PA

"I'm European, I have Europe at heart," Mr Soriot added.

"Our chairman is Swedish, is European. Our CFO is European. Many people in the management are European. So we want to treat Europe as best we can.

"In fact, we're global, of course, but we are European as much as we are British".

The pharmaceutical boss stressed "we do this at no profit," defending his company's actions as having "treated Europe fairly".