Oxford COVID Vaccine Authorized In The UK


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The UK has become the first country to authorize the Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZN) COVID-19 vaccine for public use, with roll-out to start in the first week of 2021. This vaccine is the second to be authorized in the UK – following the Pfizer vaccine.

The British government has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, enough to vaccinate 50 million people. Other countries will be watching closely: Australia has ordered over 50 million doses, Canada 20 million, and worldwide over 2.5 billion doses have been preordered. AstraZeneca expects to be able to supply large numbers of doses within the first quarter of 2021.

Notably, British people will receive two full doses of the vaccine, which in trials prevented people from falling ill with COVID-19 62% of the time. This is despite trials initially suggesting that an alternative dosing strategy – using half a dose followed by a full dose – could be much more effective, preventing illness with 90% efficacy.

What is the significance of the Oxford vaccine now being available? The Conversation asked Michael Head, an expert in global health at the University of Southampton, some key questions about why its authorization is important.

Why is this vaccine needed?

The least merry Christmas in recent memory has at least had the silver lining of a highly effective vaccine – Pfizer’s (PFE) – being available and licensed for use in the UK. But despite the brilliance of this magic bullet, there are limiting factors – particularly around the scale of production required to meet demand.

The multi-country demand for the Pfizer vaccine is akin to a highly intense hour where the local supermarket has just released some new delivery slots during lockdown, and you’re racing to get the order booked before any of your neighbours notice. Everyone wants to get in first to ensure delivery of that last pack of toilet roll – or in this case, that next batch of vaccines.

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