UK to roll out Astra/Oxford COVID vaccine after world-first approval
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, hoping that rapid action will help it stem a record surge of infections driven by a highly contagious form of the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, which has ordered 100 million doses, had already fast-tracked approval of a vaccine developed by Pfizer of the United States and Germany’s BioNTech, and administered hundreds of thousands of shots weeks ahead of European Union countries and the United States.
Though cheaper and easier to distribute than rival vaccines, the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot has been plagued with questions about its most effective dosage ever since data published last month showed some surprising results.
While other regulators have taken a more cautious approach, Britain’s MHRA was at pains to say it had resolved early doubts and – unexpectedly – that it had found an 80% success rate for the administration of two full doses, three months apart, higher than the average that the developers themselves had found.
The government plans to take advantage by giving the first dose to a larger number of people most at risk from COVID-19 before starting to administer the boosters. An advisory body recommended doing the same with the Pfizer shot.