The U.K. now has enough vaccine to cover the entire population after AstraZeneca and Oxford COVID-19 vaccine approved, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in an interview on Wednesday.
The coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford has been approved in the U.K., paving the way for widespread vaccinations with a homegrown shot that is cheaper and easier to transport and store than other vaccines.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the U.K. drug regulator, authorized the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday.
It said in a statement: “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. ”
Hancock said in an interview with the BBC Breakfast show: “We’ve got enough of this vaccine on order to vaccinate the whole population – 100 million doses. Add that to the 30 million doses of Pfizer and that’s enough for two doses for the entire population.”
Shares in Cambridge, U.K.-based AstraZeneca
traded 3.3% higher in London on Tuesday.
The approval comes weeks after the U.K. became the first country to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine based on large-scale clinical trials, when it gave the green light to the shot from U.S. drug company Pfizer
and its German partner BioNTech
on Dec. 2.
Approving the vaccine from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford could make a huge difference in helping the U.K. battle the coronavirus pandemic, and lift the severe social distancing restrictions that were put in place before Christmas.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove told Sky News on Monday that if the vaccine was approved and the rollout goes to plan, it may be possible to lift tough restrictions.
Around 24 million people in England, including all of London, are now living under the strictest tier of restrictions, including a “stay at home” order. The U.K. recorded a record 53,135 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.
The homegrown AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot gives the U.K. domestic capacity for vaccine production.
The vaccine is also cheaper and easier to transport and store than the one from Pfizer and BioNTech. That vaccine must be kept at ultralow temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit), compared with the British vaccine’s required storage at normal refrigerator temperatures.
While the vaccine will be rolled out soon in the U.K., it could be February before it is approved in much of Europe.
Noël Wathion, the deputy executive director of the European Medicines Authority, the EU’s drug regulator, told Belgian press on Tuesday that it was unlikely that the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine would be approved in the EU next month. Wathion said the drug company had yet to file an application with the regulator.