First person receives AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in the UK

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

The first doses of the vaccine were administered in Oxford, the city where it was developed. Pic:getty/nattapoomV
The first doses of the vaccine were administered in Oxford, the city where it was developed. Pic:getty/nattapoomV

Related tags: Astrazeneca, COVID-19 vaccine, Uk

The first dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has been administered in the UK this morning, after it was authorized for emergency supply last week.

Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old retiree receiving dialysis for kidney disease and who describes himself as ‘Oxford born and bred’, was the first person outside of clinical trials to receive the vaccine at 7.30am GMT today.

The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish giant AstraZeneca, was administered at Oxford University Hospital just a few hundred metres from where it was developed.

One of the other people to receive the vaccine this morning was Professor Andrew Pollard, a paediatrician working at Oxford University Hospital who helped pioneer the vaccine.

The first Oxford AstraZeneca vaccinations are being delivered at a small number of hospitals for the first few days for surveillance purposes, as per standard practice, before the bulk of supplies are sent to GP-led services later this week. 

More than 500,000 doses are available today, with 'tens of millions' more due to be delivered in the coming weeks and months once batches have been quality checked by the MHRA. 

AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is the second authorized in the UK, following the start of vaccinations with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine last month.

In the UK, however, AstraZeneca’s vaccine differs in two key ways: it can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (as opposed to Pfizer’s ultra-low temperature requirements); and has a much larger supply (Pfizer is due to deliver 30 million doses to the UK; while AstraZeneca will deliver 100 million).

The UK currently has 730 vaccination sites in operation, with hundreds more due to come onstream this week to reach more than 1,000. According to the National Health Service (NHS), the country has now vaccinated more people than anywhere else in Europe, including with more than one in five people over 80.

AstraZeneca's MHRA authorization

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorized emergency supply​ of 'COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca' (AZD1222) for people 18 years and older on December 30. It is the first authorization received by the Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccine: with the company continuing to work towards authorization in other markets.

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.

UK regulators have announced that the gaps between vaccine doses will be lengthened so that more people can receive the first dose – and therefore a certain level of protection – faster. Doses of the AstraZeneca will be administered 4-12 weeks apart (in Phase 3 trials, doses were administered 4 weeks apart); while advise on Pfizer/BioNTech doses now states they should be given ‘at least’ 21 days apart (Phase 3 trials administered the doses 21 days apart).  

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.

Related topics: Bio Developments, COVID-19

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