Health officials in the United Kingdom have granted an emergency use authorization for another COVID-19 vaccine, this one developed by a collaboration of drug maker AstraZeneca and Oxford University, making Britain the first country to issue an EUA to this vaccine.
The vaccine is the second to receive an EUA in Britain, following approval earlier this month of the one produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. However, unlike the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and a similar one developed by Moderna, the Astrazeneca-Oxford product uses a more traditional viral vector approach.
That means the vaccine is less costly to produce, and can be transported and stored at refrigerated temperatures, unlike the mRNA vaccines already approved in the UK and the US which require deep cold storage and transportation. Because of its lower cost and easier handling, the vaccine is likely to be relied on in many countries around the world.
Widespread availability of effective vaccines is critical to the resumption of global travel and economic recovery, according to traveler surveys.
The Department of Health and Social Care announced it was following the recommendation of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to greenlight use of the vaccine. The MHRA analyzed the data from the clinical trials which showed the vaccine was 70.4 percent effective at preventing COVID-19.
However the data prompted some questions about the most effective dosage. In its recommendation, the MHRA said it had found the vaccine was 80 percent effective – higher than the average that the developers themselves had found – when the vaccine is administered in two full doses, three months apart.
In the US, where recruitment for the large-scale clinical trials is almost completed, the Food and Drug Administration is reportedly not expecting to review the results and grant an EUA for the Astrazeneca vaccine before April.
UK health officials say they will start inoculations on Monday, according to Reuters. The government has already bought 100 million doses of the vaccine and AstraZeneca says it expects the first 20 million to be available in the first quarter of 2021.