A researcher in Oxford, England is working on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. John Cairns / Oxford University / AP
The UK government has announced a “major first step” to get the AstraZeneca vaccine “approved for use”.
On Friday, she officially referred AstraZeneca’s experimental vaccine candidate to the UK Medicines Agency for evaluation. The British-Swedish drug manufacturer is developing the vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
If it gets regulatory approval, the UK will be one of the first countries in the world to receive it, according to the Department of Health and Welfare (DHSC).
AstraZeneca expects to have up to 4 million cans ready for the UK by the end of the year, and another 40 million by the end of March.
The news came at a critical time for the company, which has resisted criticism of the lack of transparency in its data.
On Monday, AstraZeneca announced that its vaccine had shown an average of 70% effectiveness in large-scale studies.
In one group, 2,741 participants received half a dose of the vaccine and a full dose at least one month later. This group was 90% protected against Covid-19.
In the second group, 8,895 participants received a full dose, followed by another full dose at least a month later. This group was only 62% protected.
Because of this, AstraZeneca says the vaccine is 70% effective on average.
However, some scientists wonder why the company would report a pooled result of two different studies because it deviates from the standard reporting of clinical studies.
Another point of confusion emerged in the days following the AstraZeneca announcement: a laboratory error was the reason some volunteers had received a lower dose.
In a call to reporters on Wednesday, U.S. vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui said the group that received the falsely lower dose that was 90% effective was a younger group, with no one older than 55.
This could potentially detract from the strength of AstraZeneca’s results, as young people tend to develop a stronger immune response to vaccines.
In a statement on Friday, the Chief Executive of the UK’s Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority, Dr. June Raine that the agency “will closely examine the latest data and evidence regarding the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine.”
“Public safety will always come first. Our job is to work to the highest standards and safety is our buzzword, ”she added.
Related reporting: AstraZeneca hopes the world can focus on their positive vaccine news. However, experts fear that a lack of transparency has tarnished this