Britain on Wednesday became the first country to authorize an easy-to-handle vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) whose developers hope it will become the “vaccine for the world.” The approval and a shift in policy that will speed up rollout of the vaccine in the UK comes as a surge in infections threatens to swamp British hospitals.
The UK Department of Health said it had accepted a recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to authorize emergency use of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca.
“The rollout will start on Jan. 4 and will really accelerate into the first few weeks of next year,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a television interview. Britain has bought 100 million doses of the vaccine.
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said a radio interview the company could start shipping the first doses of the vaccine Wednesday or Thursday “and the vaccination will start next week and we will get to 1 million — and beyond that — a week, very rapidly.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK have already received a different vaccine, made by US drugmaker Pfizer and German firm BioNTech.
Soriot said it was “an important day for millions of people in the UK who will get access to this new vaccine. It has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit.”Coronavirus vaccines have typically been given in two doses, with an initial shot followed by a booster about three weeks later. SOVEREIGNPH