Oxford AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine: What does approval mean for Scotland?

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University has been approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

This development has been welcomed by many in Scotland, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling it “much needed good news” and adding that “spring will bring better times”.

The approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca candidate is fundamental to Scotland’s vaccine rollout, as it will be the one received by the majority of Scots.

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Vaccination has already begun in Scotland with the vaccine developed by Pfizer, but the country will receive enough doses of this for about 1.6 million people.

Researchers at Oxford University whose coronavirus vaccine, developed in association with AstraZeneca, has now been approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Picture: PA Media.
Researchers at Oxford University whose coronavirus vaccine, developed in association with AstraZeneca, has now been approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Picture: PA Media.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said the Scottish Government’s aim is to offer a vaccine to everyone over the age of 18, some 4.4 million people.

The Oxford AstraZeneca approval may also prevent delays to the rollout, following warnings before Christmas that the next shipment of Pfizer doses may not be due until March.

How is the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine administered?

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has not been approved for use in children, but it can be given to older adults and those who are clinically vulnerable.

It is delivered in two doses, within 12 weeks of each other – a slightly longer gap than the 21 days advised for the Pfizer jab.

The vaccine was shown to be 62 per cent effective in clinical trials.

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Coronavirus vaccine: Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved...

There were some results showing 90 per cent efficacy, but this was based on a half dose followed by a full dose, which was delivered in error to a small group of people.

The efficacy of two full doses was 62 per cent, and this is the regimen which has been approved by the MHRA and which will be given to people in Scotland.

When will the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine be available?

Ms Freeman said the rollout of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in Scotland would begin “ASAP”.

She echoed the First Minister’s words that a “brighter spring is coming”.

Scotland is following priority guidance for vaccination issued by the four-nation Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Those delivering the vaccine were first to receive it, followed by residents and staff at care homes.

These will be followed by everyone over the age of 80, and frontline health and social care staff.

Vaccination of the highest priority groups in Scotland began on December 8.

Those who received the first doses are now scheduled to be given their second jab, the Scottish Government said on Tuesday.

Almost 57,000 people had been given their first dose before Christmas.

What are the advantages of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine?

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has some advantages over some of the others being developed.

It can be stored at normal fridge temperature, while the Moderna vaccine needs to be stored at minus 20C and the Pfizer vaccine at minus 70C.

Vaccines from Novavax and Janssen are also likely to be available before the end of spring, giving NHS Scotland options in choosing which vaccine to give different groups.

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