All care home residents could be immunized by February if Oxford’s vaccine is licensed before the turn of the year, senior physicians officials told us.
Medicines regulator MHRA is due to approve the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine on either December 28 or 29, they said. Royal College of GPs said if that happens, it would speed up the program to protect those most at risk from the virus. While not as effective as Pfizer/BioNTech’s current vaccine, it is much cheaper and easier to implement. The PM yesterday stated that 350,000 people have been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine so far.
Royal College of GPs chairman Professor Martin Marshall said approval of the Oxford vaccine would greatly increase the speed of uptake. He told Radio 4’s Today program yesterday, “At the moment we are up against the Pfizer vaccine, which is difficult.
“Assuming we get approval for the AstraZeneca vaccine – which is much more familiar because it is much more similar to the flu vaccine – we will be able to move the rollout much more quickly.
“We anticipate that all nursing homes will be covered in the next few weeks and months,” he added.
Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, said the approval would ensure that the roll-out program can be sustained, as current supplies of the Pfizer vaccine will only last until the end of next month.
In contrast to the current Pfizer shot, which must be stored below -70°C and therefore has limited distribution, the Oxford shot – which is administered in two doses – can be stored in a standard refrigerator, just like the flu shot.
This will enable mass vaccination in large centers.
Said Mr. Hunt, chairman of the Health Select Committee, “It will make a huge difference because the doses we have from the Pfizer vaccine will last until the end of January, and I don’t think we’ll get another supply until March.
“So if we had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine available in January, we could continue the roll-out at the current pace.”
Matt Hancock, health minister, commented, “It was a momentous day for the UK when Margaret Keenan in Coventry became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine outside of trials.
“The approval of this vaccine was made possible thanks to the extraordinary efforts of thousands of volunteers who took part in clinical trials and expert teams of scientists and clinicians who carefully analyzed vast amounts of data.”
Government officials said millions more doses of Pfizer’s vaccine – which offers up to 95 percent protection – will be coming available in the next few weeks.
According to a spokesperson, “A regular and steady supply has been arriving in the UK during December.
“Millions more will be available in the coming weeks.” Pfizer confirmed that supplies will arrive in the UK before March next year.
The 40 million doses ordered are enough for 20 million people.
The government has also ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine – enough for 50 million people.
And it has pre-ordered seven million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which was approved by U.S. regulators late Friday night.
This vaccine is 95 percent effective and has a shelf life of six months, but must be stored at -20 degrees.
Yesterday, Operations Minister Nadhim Zahawi, who oversees the vaccine program for England, said, “It is encouraging that the Moderna vaccine has been approved in the US.
“The MHRA has already begun a rolling review to assess the vaccine and ensure it meets rigorous standards for safety, quality and efficacy.”
A spokeswoman for the agency said, “Our vaccine approval process is designed to ensure that any approved Covid 19 vaccine meets the expected high standards for safety, quality and efficacy.
“Each vaccine must undergo robust clinical trials that meet international standards and are overseen by the MHRA.
“No vaccine would be approved for supply in the UK unless the expected standards are met.”