Oxford coronavirus vaccine approval expected shortly after Christmas,government sources claim

Millions of people could be set to receive the Oxford Vaccine just days after Christmas if it is given the green light.

Liam Coleman
Saturday 19 December 2020 10:34 GMT
Coronavirus in numbers

A vaccine a developed by the University of Oxford is set to be approved within days of Christmas, according to senior Whitehall sources.  

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is believed to be set to authorise the vaccines on December 28 or 29 after final data is provided to the regulator on Monday.

Football stadiums and other sites across the country will then be opened from the first week of January, to allow mass vaccinations on a scale never seen before in the UK, according to the Telegraph.

The UK has secured 100 million doses of the jab, four million of which are immediately available, allowing a major expansion in the NHS vaccine programme across the country.

Unlike the Pfizer jab, the Oxford vaccine can be stored in regular refrigerators, meaning it can be administered far more easily, from thousands of sites across the UK.

On Oxford/AstraZeneca being licensed before the end of the year, Jeremy Hunt, the former Tory health secretary, said: "It will make a massive difference because the doses we have of the Pfizer vaccine will keep us going until the end of January.

"I think we’re not getting another shipment until March. 

"So if we get that Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine ready to go in January then we can keep the roll out going at its current pace."

Former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt has said the country currently only has enough does of the Pfizer vaccine to keep going until the end of January
Former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt has said the country currently only has enough does of the Pfizer vaccine to keep going until the end of January (PA)

The vaccine developed is safe and has the best immune response when a full two-dose regimen is used, according to new trial data.

Detailed new data from phase one and two clinical trials shows the vaccine stimulates a broad range of antibody and T-cell responses, and the paper states that it “strongly supports” the team’s move to a two-dose regimen in ongoing phase three trials.

Findings from phase three trials published in The Lancet earlier this month had previously found that the jab is 90 per cent efficacious if administered at a half dose and then at a full dose, or 62 per cent effective if administered in two full doses.

However, more work needs to be done to affirm that result.

Last week the NHS began the first Covid-19 vaccination programme in the world, with jabs given to around 140,000 elderly people and health and care workers in the first seven days.  

This week the rollout has expanded far more widely, with around 400 GP centres now involved, as well as 83 hospitals.  

By next week, more than 200,000 people a day should be receiving jabs, equating to well over one million doses a week by Christmas.

Once the Oxford jab gets the green light, the opening of mass vaccination centres will mean this can be increased to several million doses a week, Whitehall sources say.  

It means Britain is on course to vaccinate the 20 million most vulnerable people by March, allowing far greater release of restrictions, with the prospect the whole country could be vaccinated by summer.  

Although the first batch of four million doses will be delivered from the Netherlands and Germany, the bulk of manufacturing will take place in England, allowing for easy access.

AstraZeneca has said a further 15 million doses of active ingredients are ready, and can be filled into vials in a matter of days.

The full order of 100 million doses, in addition to 40 million doses of the Pfizer jabs being imported from Belgium, is enough to vaccinate the whole country. The speed of rollout means the majority of those aged 80 and over are likely to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which was authorised first.  

Both types of vaccine require two doses, with a three-week gap between them for the Pfizer one, and a four-week gap for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has taken longer for regulators to assess, because of differences in the efficacy rates found in different groups, ranging from 62 to 90 per cent. However, a study released this week suggests that leaving an adequate gap between doses is the most crucial way to boost efficacy.

An MHRA spokesperson said: "Our rolling review of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is ongoing.

“Any vaccine must undergo robust clinical trials in line with international standards, with oversight provided by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and no vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.”

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