The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University / AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.
This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan and decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes. It has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of patients with the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and its roll out will continue. Now the NHS will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to roll out the Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccine.
A Government spokesperson said: "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised the priority should be to give as many people in at-risk groups their first dose, rather than providing the required two doses in as short a time as possible.
"Everyone will still receive their second dose and this will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection.
"From today the NHS across the UK will prioritise giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups. With two vaccines now approved, we will be able to vaccinate a greater number of people who are at highest risk, protecting them from the disease and reducing mortality and hospitalisation.
"The JCVI’s independent advice is that this approach will maximise the benefits of both vaccines. It will ensure that more at-risk people are able to get meaningful protection from a vaccine in the coming weeks and months, reducing deaths and starting to ease pressure on our NHS.
"To aid the success of the vaccination programme, it is vital everyone continues to play their part, abides by the restrictions in their area and remembers hands, face, space so we can suppress this virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed."
Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, said: "The regulator’s assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment, and an endorsement of the huge effort from a devoted international team of researchers and our dedicated trial participants.
"Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible."
Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said: "This is a day for the team developing the vaccine to celebrate, after a year of extremely hard work under difficult circumstances. Now that the first authorisation or use of the vaccine outside of clinical trials has been granted, we still have more to do and will continue to provide more data to multiple regulatory authorities, until we are able to see the vaccine being used to save lives around the world."
Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute said: "For the past 25 years, staff at the Jenner Institute have worked to develop vaccines using novel technologies to protect people around the world from diseases that claim many lives each year. The work on ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 builds on many years of research by a dedicated team of vaccinologists, and we are delighted to see the first emergency use licensure."
Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Oxford, said: "This is a great day for British science and a great day for universities everywhere. Above all, it is a great day for the many people whose lives will be saved by this vaccine. We are greatly indebted to those who have designed, developed, manufactured and evaluated ChAdOx1."
Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca, said: "Today is 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. We would like to thank our many colleagues at AstraZeneca, Oxford University, the UK government and the tens of thousands of clinical trial participants."