Britain expects to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine this week

A lab technician oversees filling and packaging tests for the large-scale manufacture and delivery of Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate AZD1222, which was conducted on a high-performance aseptic vial filling line in Catalent, Anagni, Italy on September 11, 2020.

Vincenzo Pinto | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – The coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is expected to be approved for use in the UK in the coming days.

The Financial Times reported Sunday that government officials confirmed that the drug and health products regulator will immediately approve the vaccine, saying the announcement could be made as early as Tuesday. The Sunday Telegraph reported that approval could come as early as Monday as health care workers prepare to manage the shots.

The regulator was on the move, however, and the UK Department of Health told Reuters it should be given time to properly evaluate the data from the vaccine trials.

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove didn’t reveal anything in media interviews Monday morning either, but said his approval could expedite the lifting of strict bans in the country that have effectively canceled Christmas celebrations for many millions.

Around 30,500 infections and 316 deaths were recorded daily in the UK on Sunday. However, these numbers could be underestimated due to delays in reporting. Cases in London and the south of England have increased, increasing pressure on hospitals. A new variant of the coronavirus in the UK is reportedly more transferable and has resulted in travel restrictions for people trying to leave the country.

The AstraZeneca shot is expected to be launched next week, if approved in the next few days, and will be added to the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which according to government statistics has so far been administered 600,000 in the UK.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate would allow the country to significantly speed up its vaccination program given its development in the UK. It’s also a lot cheaper than others and doesn’t need to be kept at extremely low temperatures.

Earlier this month, Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the medical journal The Lancet, told CNBC that the vaccine could be used more effectively than others around the world.

“The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine is currently the vaccine that can immunize the planet more effectively and faster than any other vaccine we have,” said Horton, adding that it is important to think about vaccine vaccination on a global scale ” Because even if we immunize a country, the threat is that you will reintroduce the virus from another country that is not protected. “

Confusion over November trial dates led to criticism of AstraZeneca in the UK. The data suggest that the vaccine may help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and prevent disease and death. The study also found an efficacy of 62% for subjects who were given two full doses, but 90% for a subgroup who were given half a dose followed by a full dose.

White House Operation Warp Speed ​​chief Moncef Slaoui and others in the US expressed concern about the age group tested, saying the 90% effectiveness was only shown for the lowest risk group, the 2,741 people counted under 55 years of age.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said the pharmaceutical company will conduct an additional global study to evaluate the effectiveness of its vaccine. Soriot told The Times newspaper this weekend that he believed subsequent data would show that his company had achieved an effectiveness rate of over 90%, on par with the others.

“We think we figured out the formula for success and figured out how to get effectiveness that is everyone else’s after two doses,” he said. “I can’t tell you more because we will publish at some point.”

He added that AstraZeneca believes the vaccine will be effective against the new strain of coronavirus, but ran tests to confirm it.

– CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this article.

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