The UK government has announced it has asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.
This comes a week after the regulator was also asked to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, of which the government has ordered 40 million doses.
‘We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’
The referral to the MHRA "marks a significant first step” in the process of getting the vaccine "approved for deployment", said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, to understand the data and determine whether it meets rigorous safety standards.”
Mr Hancock recently said that both the military and NHS staff are on standby to roll out a Covid vaccine across the UK from the start of December.
Although a vaccine is still yet to be approved by the MHRA, it is thought that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine could be rolled out within weeks if approved.
The company said it was currently preparing to submit the data to authorities.
The UK government has already pre-ordered 100 million doses of the jab, which has been developed at Oxford University, with support from the pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca. This is enough to immunise 50 million people.
The DHSC has said that if the vaccine is authorised, then the UK would be one of the first countries in the world to receive the jab.
AstraZeneca is set to have up to 4m doses ready for the UK by the end of this year, with 40m by the end of March 2021.
Varying efficacy levels of the vaccine
Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine was recently found to have three efficacy levels - with an overall efficacy of 70 per cent, a lower one of 62 per cent and a high of 90 per cent.
When volunteers in the vaccine’s trial were given two "high" doses of the vaccine, the protection was 62 per cent, but this then rose to 90 per cent when people were given a "low" dose followed by a high one.
On Thursday (26 Nov) AstraZeneca said it was amending its study in the US following the discovery that the vaccine seems to perform best when a half dose is administered followed by a full one, instead of two full doses.
The company explained that it is looking to get further confidence in the 90 per cent efficacy rate.