Britain became the first country today to authorise the coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. The first jabs will be administered as early as next week.
The medicines regulator has given the green light under emergency measures in light of NHS hospitals coming to breaking point with mounting new COVID cases, scarce ventilator and oxygen supplies and talks of Tier 5 isolation measures to be possibly announced later today.
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The Government accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for use following claims of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by MHRA The experts concluded that the vaccine has “met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive this vaccine.
“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/BioNTech vaccine and its roll out will continue. Now the NHS will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to roll out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine,” the government said in a statement.
Having studied evidence on both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccines, the JCVI has advised the 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.
From today the NHS across the UK will prioritise giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups. “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,” said the Department of Health and Social Care.
The JCVI’s independent advice is that this approach will maximise the benefits of both vaccines. It will ensure that more at-risk people are able to get meaningful protection from a vaccine in the coming weeks and months, reducing deaths and starting to ease pressure on the NHS.