By Busayo Onijala
Lagos, Dec. 31, 2020 The second Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine has been authorised for use in the UK, allowing a significant expansion of the immunisation programme with hundreds more vaccination sites opening in the coming weeks and months.
This is contained in a statement by the British High Commission in Lagos on Thursday.
The commission said that the UK regulator had accepted the recommendation of the Commission on Human Medicines and authorised the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine following months of rigorous clinical trials.
It explained that the UK was the first in the world to sign an agreement with Oxford University/AstraZeneca, securing access to 100 million doses of the vaccine on behalf of the UK, crown dependencies, and overseas territories.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said that the approval of the Oxford vaccine was a massive step forward in the fight against the coronavirus.
He described the development as a tribute to the “incredible UK scientists at Oxford University and AstraZeneca whose breakthrough will help to save lives around the world.
“Vaccines are the exit route from the pandemic and we have already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people.
“The new Oxford jab will allow us to accelerate our vaccination plan, allowing us to return to normality in the future.
“This is a moment to celebrate British innovation.
“Not only are we responsible for discovering the first treatment to reduce mortality for COVID-19, this vaccine will be made available to some of the poorest regions of the world at a low cost, helping to protect countless people from this awful disease.”
Hancock further said that the vaccine would be rolled out to priority groups including care home residents and staff, people over 80 years of age, health and care workers, then to the rest of the population in order of age and risk, including those considered clinically extremely vulnerable.
“The vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, between two to eight degrees, making it easier to distribute to care homes and other locations across the UK.
“The NHS has decades of experience in rolling out successful widespread vaccination programmes and will now begin to implement extensive preparations for the roll out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine,” he added.
Prof. Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England and co-lead of the National Institute for Health Research said the scientists, regulators, and those who funded the research deserved recognition and thanks.
According to him, the willingness and selflessness of many volunteers who took part in the vaccine trials are essential in delivering the safe and effective vaccine.
Prof. Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England said the vaccine was easier to transport and deploy and would benefit UK citizens as well as vulnerable people around the world.
Through the Vaccines Taskforce, the UK has secured early access to 357 million doses of seven of the most promising vaccines so far and to date, the UK government has invested more than £230 million into manufacturing a successful vaccine.
Clive Dix, Interim Chair of the government’s Vaccines Taskforce said the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine stood out on the global stage because it was being made on a not-for-profit basis and would be available to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Dix said that it was an ethos the Vaccines Taskforce shared and they were determined to ensure the fair and equitable access to vaccines across the globe regardless of status and influence.
Alongside the existing Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the UK’s vaccination programme can continue its steady expansion over the first part of next year