Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine approved in UK for mass roll-out
A Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca has been approved for use in the UK, paving the way for its mass roll-out in the next few days.
The jab, which has been described as a “game changer”, was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the approval is “fantastic news” and confirmed the rollout will begin on January 4, including to care homes.
He told Sky News: “I am now, with this approval this morning, highly confident that we can get enough vulnerable people vaccinated by the spring that we can now see the route out of this pandemic.”
He said there would be a difficult few weeks ahead “but we also know that there is a route out of this”.
He added: “The vaccine provides that route out. We have all just got to hold our nerve over the weeks to come.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “It is truly fantastic news – and a triumph for British science – that the @UniofOxford/@AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use.
“We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”
The news comes amid increasing strain on hospitals in England, where the number of Covid-19 patients is the highest it has been during the pandemic.
Mr Hancock is due to announce any changes to tier areas in a statement to the Commons on Wednesday.
“We are facing a very significant challenge in the NHS right now,” he told Sky News.
“There has been a significant rise in the number of cases – the highest number of cases recorded yesterday, 53,000 cases.
“We are going to have to take further action.”
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford University vaccine – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
Mr Hancock said the plan is to vaccinate all vulnerable groups first but that eventually all adults, including the under-50s, will be offered a jab.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the jab is “safe and effective”, adding: “It is very good news that the independent regulator has now authorised for use the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers, will publish its latest guidance on who should receive the vaccine and in which order later.
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