The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorized emergency supply of 'COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca' (AZD1222) for people 18 years and older. The two doses of the viral-vector vaccine are recommended to be administered between four and 12 weeks apart.
It is the first authorization received by the Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccine: with the company continuing to work towards authorization in other markets.
The UK has ordered up to 100 million doses of the vaccine: with 'millions' of doses expected in the first quarter of 2021. The vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions for at least six months and administered within existing healthcare settings.
The vaccine has been authorized to be delivered as two full doses (as opposed to the half dose / full dose regimen also explored in AstraZeneca's Phase 3 trial). The company is hopeful that the vaccine will be effective against the new variant of the virus that has emerged in the UK.
Pascal Soriot, CEO, 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."
Matt Hancock, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, welcomed the vaccine's authorization as a success story for British innovation: with the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and with large scale clinical trials conducted in the UK (as well as abroad).
“This vaccine will be made available to some of the poorest regions of the world at a low cost, helping protect countless people from this awful disease," he said. "It is a tribute to the incredible UK scientists at Oxford University and AstraZeneca whose breakthrough will help to save lives around the world. I want to thank every single person who has been part of this British success story."
AstraZeneca is aiming for global manufacturing capacity of up to 3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021 (around three times that of Pfizer or Moderna, who are aiming for 1.3 billion and 1 billion respectively). AstraZeneca says it is continuing to engage with governments, multilateral organizations and collaborators around the world to ensure broad and equitable access to the vaccine at no profit for the duration of the pandemic.