Oxford Covid-19 vaccine 'will be approved before new year'

The Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be approved before the new year with vaccination to begin from the second week in January, the Telegraph reports.

A researcher in a laboratory at the Jenner Institute working on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Picture: John Cairns/University of Oxford/PA Wire
A researcher in a laboratory at the Jenner Institute working on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Picture: John Cairns/University of Oxford/PA Wire

According to ‘Whitehall sources’, the jab will be authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on December 28 or 29, after final data is provided to the regulator on Monday.

It comes as former UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned the country could run out of vaccine stocks, with supplies from Pfizer expected to last until the end of January and a new shipment not due until March.

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Mr Hunt, who is also chairman of the Health Select Committee, said the approval of the new vaccine would make a “massive difference” to the UK-wide rollout.

“It will make a massive difference because the doses that we have of the Pfizer vaccine will keep us going until the end of January and I think we’re not getting another shipment until March,” he told the BBC’s Today Programme on Saturday.

“So if we could have that Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine ready to go in January then we could keep the roll-out going at its current pace.”

The majority of Scots are likely to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, as the country is set to receive enough of the Pfizer vaccine for 1.6 million people, and enough of the Moderna vaccine, which is still to be approved, for 280,000 people.

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The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be enough for four million Scots to receive two doses.

The aim of the Scottish Government is to offer a Covid-19 vaccine to all Scots over the age of 18 – 4.4 million people.

The MHRA said its review of the AstraZeneca vaccine is still ongoing.

A spokesperson said: “Our rolling review of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is ongoing.

“Our process for approving vaccines is designed to make sure that any Covid-19 vaccine authorised meets the expected high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

“Any vaccine must undergo robust clinical trials in line with international standards, with oversight provided by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and no vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.”

In the first week of Covid-19 vaccination in Scotland, 18,644 doses were administered.

These were given first to those delivering the vaccine, followed by residents and staff in care homes for older adults.

The next phase of the rollout includes all those over 80 and health and social care staff.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said the current aim is for these groups, the highest on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation priority list, to be vaccinated by the end of spring 2021.

The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine has been authorised for use in the US by the country’s Food and Drug Administration.

The move marks the world’s first clearance for Moderna’s shots, and the vaccine is very similar to one from Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech jab which is already being rolled out.

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