The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
The news comes as the country battles a huge surge in cases, including some caused by a new variant of the virus which is thought to spread more quickly.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be distributed from Monday and will enable the UK to increase the speed at which it administers the jab across the population.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 50 million people. Each person requires two full doses, up to three months apart, for it to be effective.
With the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine already being rolled out across the country, the UK now has enough doses of approved jabs to cover the entire population.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has labeled the news a “triumph” and says healthcare workers will begin vaccinating people “as quickly as possible.”
Unlike the AstraZeneca-BioNTech vaccine, which must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius, the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab can be stored in a standard fridge, making it much easier to transport to hospitals, surgeries and care homes.
It has also has a different mode of delivery. While the AstraZeneca vaccine involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into a person to stimulate a response from the immune system, the UK jab will inject genes from SARS-Cov-2 via a genetically modified common cold virus.
The race is now on for the UK to vaccinate people as quickly as possible while trying to halt the rising number of infections that have pushed the NHS to breaking point.
According to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the approval of the Oxford vaccine is also good news for poorer nations, who will be able to buy it at low cost and begin their own vaccination programs.
He said: “This is a moment to celebrate British innovation – not only are we responsible for discovering the first treatment to reduce mortality for COVID-19, this vaccine will be made available to some of the poorest regions of the world at a low cost, helping protect countless people from this awful disease.”
Europe 20:26, 30-Dec-2020