The UK has approved a second vaccine to prevent Covid-19 paving the way for a stepped up campaign to immunise the population just as hospitals across the country face a sharp rise in admissions from the pandemic. The vaccine, AZD1222, was developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca Plc and received an emergency authorisation on 30 December – a little more than four weeks after a vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech was given clearance.
Both vaccines were reviewed by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which acted under a regulation enabling the rapid approval of medicines which address serious public health issues.
AZD1222 uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector containing the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack the virus if it later infects the body. Interim data from a Phase 3 trial of the vaccine showed that it was 70.4% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 occurring more than 14 days after receiving two doses of the vaccine. A second efficacy endpoint of prevention of severe disease showed no cases of severe infections or hospitalisations in the vaccine group.
The authorisation for AZD1222 recommends that two doses be administered to each individual with an interval of between four and 12 weeks.
AstraZeneca said that it aims to supply “millions of doses” of the vaccine to the UK in the first quarter of 2021 as part of an agreement with the government to supply up to 100 million doses in total.
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