UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca received approval for its COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday (December 30).
The move comes three weeks after the UK was the first nation to distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine was developed in collaboration with Oxford University and is promising to health officials given that it’s cheaper to make and doesn’t require extreme storage temperatures, making rollout simpler.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the news of the vaccine’s approval a “triumph for British science.”
“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 hospitalization,” the UK's Department of Health said in a statement.
Health officials in the country still recommend people follow other guidelines like hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing even with the vaccines, to cut down on transmission of the virus.
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s CEO, announced the vaccine would be offered at “no profit” to the company: “Today is an important day for millions of people in the UK,” he said, “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.”
First doses of the new vaccine are scheduled to be rolled out as soon as January 4, according to British Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
According to a report by NBC News, the new vaccine, which was tested on about 11,600 volunteers in the UK and in Brazil, is shown to have an average of 70% effectiveness against COVID-19. Peer-reviewed data show that there were no hospitalizations or severe COVID-19 cases three weeks after the first doses were given to the volunteers.
The UK, like the US, is facing a surge in new cases, as well as a variant strain of the coronavirus. On Tuesday (December 29), the UK reported a record 53,000 new confirmed cases. Experts and leaders hope the vaccine can help relieve healthcare systems slammed with patients.
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