UK has approved the use of Coronavirus vaccine designed by scientists at the University of Oxford. This will lead to a massive expansion in the UK’s immunisation campaign – aimed at getting life back to normal.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the rollout will start on 4 January “and will really accelerate into the first few weeks of next year”.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses from the manufacturer AstraZeneca – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
The approval, by the medicines regulator, means the vaccine is both safe and effective.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was designed in the first months of 2020, tested on the first volunteer in April, and has since been through large-scale clinical trials involving thousands of people.
It has been developed at a pace that would have been unthinkable before the pandemic.
It is the second jab to be approved in the UK after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given the go-ahead in December.
More than 600,000 people in the UK have been vaccinated since Margaret Keenan became the first in the world to get that jab outside of a clinical trial.
But the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will lead to a significant increase in vaccination as it is cheap and easy to mass produce.
Crucially it can be stored in a standard fridge – unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab which needs ultra cold storage at -70C – so it will be far easier to get the Oxford vaccine to care homes and GP surgeries.
Priority groups for immunisation – including the elderly, care home residents and health and care workers – have already been identified.
The new vaccine approval comes after Public Health England said the Country was facing “unprecedented” levels of infections, and health officials in parts of Wales, Scotland and the south of England voiced concerns about the increasing pressure on the NHS.