UK regulator approves Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

The United Kingdom on Wednesday approved the coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca.

The government said in its announcement that the green light “follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts” at the regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, “which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.”

The U.K. also said in the announcement that it would change the way it would prioritize the administration of the vaccine, upon the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

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,” the announcement said. “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.”

The news comes amid a winter surge in coronavirus cases in the U.K., which has put hospitals under levels of pressure that now exceed the April peak of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the EU’s regulator, the European Medicines Authority (EMA), indicated it is unlikely to be able to approve the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in January. The EMA’s Deputy Executive Director Noël Wathion told Het Nieuwsblad newspaper in an interview published Tuesday that Oxford and AstraZeneca “have not even filed an application with us yet.” He added the EMA had not received sufficient information “to warrant a conditional marketing license.”



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