Britain on December 30 became the first nation to approve the Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The United Kingdom government said that it has accepted a recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) "to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for use". The rollout is expected to begin as early as next week.
AstraZeneca, in a statement, said that first doses of the vaccine are being released so that vaccinations may begin early in the New Year. The company aims to supply millions of doses in the first quarter as part of its deal with the UK government to supply up to 100 million doses in total, it added.
The authorisation recommends two doses administered with an interval of between 4 and 12 weeks. This regimen was shown in clinical trials to be safe and effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, with no severe cases & no hospitalisations more than 14 days after the second dose, AstraZeneca said.
The vaccine is expected to be relied on in many countries because of its low cost, availability and ease of use. It can be kept in refrigerators rather than the ultra-cold storage other vaccines require.
The Oxford vaccine has become the second COVID-19 vaccine in use in Britain. On December 2, regulators gave similar emergency authorization to one from US drugmaker Pfizer and German partner BioNTech.
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal 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 Serum Institute of India (SII), which is developing the vaccine in India, is also hoping for the emergency use approval of the COVID-19 vaccine 'Covishield' by the end of this month or January in India.
"The emergency use licensure is expected to come by December or January in the UK, and simultaneously we hope to get approval in India as well," CEO Adar Poonawalla said.
"There are no concerns at all (with vaccine safety and efficacy), we will be hearing some good news very soon. All the data has been submitted to the UK and Indian regulators. We must respect the process adopted by the regulators," Poonawalla added.Click here for Moneycontrol's full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak