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Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Approved In The UK


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockDec 30 2020, 09:28 UTC

Courtesy of AstraZeneca/University of Oxford. 

The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, marking the second vaccine approved by the country this month. The UK has pre-ordered 100 million doses, enough to vaccinate 50 million people, and hopes to start giving the first doses by Monday.

On the morning of December 30, the UK Government announced it had accepted the recommendation from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorize Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use after clinical trials showed the vaccine was both safe and effective. 


The "Oxford vaccine" (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus), that has been genetically changed so that it is safe and impossible for it to replicate in humans. Phase 3 trials showed the vaccine was overall 70 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. Unusually, efficiency rose to 90 percent of people who received a small dose followed by a full dose, although it remains unclear why.

The authorization by the MHRA recommends two standard full doses administered within an interval of between four and 12 weeks, which clinical trials found to be 62 percent effective. Furthermore, no hospitalized or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in anyone who received this dosing regime. The roll-out of the Oxford vaccine, expected to start on January 4, will initially be geared towards high-risk people, such as frontline healthcare workers and people in care homes. 


"It is truly fantastic news - and a triumph for British science - that the @UniofOxford/@AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use. We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible," Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, tweeted on Wednesday morning.


It is considered a game-changer as it can be stored in standard refrigerators, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be stored at around -75°C (-103°F), making it harder to distribute.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, MHRA Chief Executive Dr June Raine said no "corners have been cut" in approving the Oxford vaccine despite being developed in less than a year. She added that all data on safety and effectiveness were rigorously reviewed and the regulatory work had been carried out "around the clock" to get the vaccine authorized as soon as possible.

With cases of COVID-19 continuing to skyrocket in the UK, the approval of the second vaccine can't come soon enough. Just yesterday, the UK recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with 53,135 new daily infections. 


“This is a tremendous day for all of us. With the approval of the AZ [AstraZeneca] vaccine it means that we can vaccinate at scale with the priority for the first phase being those who are vulnerable to severe disease and hospitalisation,“ said Professor Robert Read, Head of Clinical and Experimental Sciences within Medicine at the University of Southampton, commenting on the news. 

“The impact will take a few weeks to be seen but I am certain it will be significant,” they added. 

 This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.


For more information about COVID-19, check out the IFLScience COVID-19 hub where you can follow the current state of the pandemic, the progress of vaccine development, and further insights into the disease.

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