Britain gave AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine a vote of confidence yesterday when it asked its regulator to assess it for a rollout after experts raised questions about trial data and the company said it may run another study to gauge the shot’s efficacy.
The UK government has secured 100mn doses of the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, the most supplies it has ordered of any shot to fight the pandemic.
The British drugmaker expects 4mn doses to be available in the country by the end of next month, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock aims for a rollout to begin before Christmas.
“We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, to understand the data and determine whether it meets rigorous safety standards,” Hancock said.
“This letter is an important step towards deploying a vaccine as quickly as safely possible.”
Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) started an accelerated “rolling review” of the vaccine at the start of this month as data comes in on safety and efficacy. In the global race to develop vaccines against Covid-19, AstraZeneca’s candidate is viewed as offering one of the best hopes for many developing countries because of its cheaper price and ability to be transported at normal fridge temperatures.
Officials in the Philippines yesterday said they would secure 2.6mn shots of the AstraZeneca shot — the country’s first supply deal for a Covidd-19 vaccine — and were negotiating a possible purchase of a further 1mn doses.
The announcements came despite some scientists raising doubts about the robustness of results showing the shot was 90% effective in a sub-group of trial participants who, by error initially, received a half dose followed by a full dose. AstraZeneca had released trial data on Monday that showed its experimental vaccine prevented on average 70% of Covid-19 cases in late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil.
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