Britain became the first in the world to approve AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine, with rollout and distribution set to get underway by early next week.
The U.K. was also first to approve Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, jumping ahead of both European Union and the U.S. medical regulators.
“Today in the UK, the MHRA has approved our COVID-19 vaccine for emergency supply,” Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive officer, said in a statement on Twitter. “Working with the UK government, first vaccinations will begin early in the New Year, and we aim to supply millions of doses by end of March. My sincere thanks to our many colleagues at AstraZeneca, Oxford University, the UK government and the tens of thousands of clinical trial participants.”
The vaccine was found to be safe and 70% effective in clinical trials, according to a study published earlier this month, but the data involved in the study has come under scrutiny over dosing methods, and will likely face further questioning by the FDA and EU’s medical regulators.
In November, the company had announced that it was restarting clinical trials due to inconsistencies that occurred in the first round. The U.S. has already secured 300 million doses of the yet-to-be approved jab.
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The vaccine was developed using more traditional methods as opposed to the mRNA technology platform that was used for both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca option involves an inactivated common cold virus isolated from chimpanzees, altered with genes to express the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
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“Instead of directly injecting the nucleic acid, an RNA or DNA version of that gene, the gene is delivered in another virus,” Dr. William Moss, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health International Vaccine Access Center, previously explained. “They’re different strategies to, kind of, trick, if you will, our own body to make the virus protein, release it from the cells, and then our immune system responds to that.”
Britain’s government has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine and will start administering the shots on Monday, according to Reuters. The country is grappling with new strict lockdown measures in a bid to stifle the spread of a new coronavirus variant said to be more transmissible than previous strains.
Fox News’ Kayla Rivas contributed to this report.