politics

Oxford coronavirus vaccine approved 'in days' and lockdown 'over by February'


Lockdowns could end as soon as February if the Oxford vaccine gets the nod from regulators within days.

Up to 15 million people who are most at risk of dying or getting seriously ill with coronavirus have reportedly been identified for urgent inoculation in the coming weeks.

The new jab is easier to distribute than the existing Pfizer one and could reach millions a week once approved.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said ministers “should be moving heaven and earth” to ensure it goes to plan.

Millions a week could get the jab starting next week as it is easier to distribute than the existing one.

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People walking past the River Thames as they make their way along the South bank in London today

AstraZeneca, which hopes for approval within days, said: “We think we’ve figured out the winning formula.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “With the virus spreading with greater speed thanks to the new variant, it’s now fiercely urgent vaccination is rolled out as quickly as possible.

“This is a race against time and ministers should be moving heaven and earth to get people the jabs needed to stay safe.”

AstraZeneca, the firm behind it, suggested it could be approved within days. – with the first injections as soon as next week.



Crowds of shoppers fill Northumberland Street in Newcastle today as the post Christmas sales continue

Boss Pascal Soriot said: “We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else.”

Between 12 and 15 million individuals most at risk from Covid-19 have reportedly been identified by the Government.

Some officials suggest this group could all be vaccinated by the end of February.

Once this has happened the NHS would be less at risk of being overwhelmed by cases, and it is hoped this could lead to a relaxation of restrictions within months.



Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The early roll-out of vaccines – and the incredible work of our scientists and NHS – means we can now see light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic.”

It came as 30,501 new coronavirus cases were reported in England and Wales yesterday, and 316 deaths.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have paused their reporting of figures over Christmas.

Once the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine gets the nod it will be rolled out to millions a week because it is easier to distribute than the existing Pfizer one, which must be stored at -70C.



A quiet Piccadilly Circus in London today

By Christmas Eve over 600,000 doses had been administered since the first Pfizer jab was given two weeks earlier.

The Oxford vaccine can be safely stored in a refrigerator, and is significantly cheaper – at just £3 a dose, compared with £25 for the Pfizer.

There are no signs of any concern about its safety from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.



Members of the public enjoy a stroll in Hampstead Heath on London on December 27

The MHRA said: “Any vaccine must undergo robust clinical trials in line with international standards, and no vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.”

A Government spokesman said: “The medicines regulator is reviewing the final data from the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca phase three clinical trials.”

The Oxford jab can be quickly manufactured and distributed at vast scale, with AstraZeneca able to produce three billion doses next year.



Police patrol on horseback through St James’ Park in London

Trials showed an efficacy rate of 90 per cent when patients were given half a dose, followed by a full dose at least a month later.

When two full doses were given, the rate was lower, just 62 per cent – meaning the overall efficacy was 70 per cent.

The US vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were shown to be around 95 per cent effective.

It came as cases of the new Covid-19 variant, first identified in the UK, have now been confirmed across Europe, as well as in Australia, Japan and Lebanon, and now in Canada and Jordan.





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