Regulators in the United Kingdom have approved the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Around 530,000 doses are slated to be available at the beginning of next week, and vaccinations are set to begin on Monday. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson labeled the approval a “triumph”, adding, “we will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine — since two doses are required to reach 90% protection against the novel coronavirus, this is enough to vaccinate 50 million people. The first groups of people who will receive the vaccine follow the same trend of rollouts as other vaccines: priority is given to care home residents, individuals over the age of 80, and healthcare professionals.
The United Kingdom’s government hopes that, now that two vaccines have been approved in the country (the other being the Pfizer vaccine), they will be able to ramp up weekly vaccinations. Policymakers have set a goal of 2 million vaccinations per week; once the aforementioned priority groups have been immunized, the focus will shift to individuals over the age of 50 and those with health conditions. This next group of people, who are also a part of the first phase of rollouts, consists of 25 million individuals.
The protection offered by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is less than that offered by the 94% and 95% given by the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, respectively, which healthcare professionals are already administering in the US and Europe. However, a crucial advantage of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is that it can be stored at standard fridge temperature, whereas the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at an incredibly cool -70C.
The ease of storage of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine makes it much more easily distributed, which is a crucial logistical issue when rolling out vaccinations to many millions of people. Another difference between the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is that the latter two require a second dose 3 weeks after the first, whereas the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccinia features a wait time of 4 to 12 weeks.
Regulators stipulate that those with a history of allergic reactions should refrain from receiving the vaccine, but have now cleared the path for pregnant and breastfeeding women to receive the jab in cases where “benefits outweigh the risks.”
Although the emergence of a new strain of COVID that was first discovered in the UK and has since spread to several European countries and the US had caused panic, professionals believe the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as other vaccines, should be able to immunize against all variants of COVID-19.