The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday amid rising coronavirus cases.
According to BBC, the UK has ordered 100 million doses – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
This would cover the entire population, when combined with the full order of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, Health Secretary. Matthew Hancock, said.
The new vaccine approval comes after Public Health England said the country was facing “unprecedented” levels of infections, and health officials in parts of Wales, Scotland and the south of England voiced concerns about the increasing pressure on the NHS.
Millions more people in England are expected to be placed under the toughest tier four restrictions.
On Tuesday, 53,135 new COVID cases were recorded in the UK – the highest single day rise since mass testing began – as well as 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the vaccine development “a triumph” for British science, adding, “We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”
And England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty praised the “considerable collective effort that has brought us to this point”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Hancock said it marked a “significant moment” in the fight against the virus, adding that “2021 can be a year of hope and recovery because we can see our way out of the pandemic”.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was designed in the first months of 2020, tested on the first volunteer in April, and has since been through large-scale clinical trials involving thousands of people.
It is the second jab to be approved in the UK after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given the go-ahead in December.
Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, which needs ultra cold storage at -70C, the Oxford-AstraZeneca can be stored in a standard fridge so will be easier to deliver to care homes and GP surgeries.
AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the company will “progressively ramp up” the vaccination programme, and will be able to deliver up to two million doses a week.
More than 600,000 people in the UK have been vaccinated since Margaret Keenan became the first in the world to be given it outside of a clinical trial.
The approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine marks a major turning point in the pandemic.
It will lead to a massive expansion in the UK immunisation campaign aimed at getting life back to normal.
The shift to giving as many people as possible the first doses of either approved vaccine effectively doubles the number of people given some protection.
The second dose, which gives maximum protection, will come up to three months later.
However, the next couple of months still look bleak.
Health officials have spoken of “unprecedented” levels of infection and some hospitals are struggling with the number of patients.
Prof Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the vaccine approval was an “astonishing achievement” in science and clinical research.
But he said there was still “more work to do”, warning: “It’s not over yet.”
“Our colleagues in hospital are facing some real horrors caused by this virus. The next steps are critical,” he said.
Meanwhile, the health secretary has said that more areas will be placed under England’s toughest tier four – “stay at home” – restrictions.
Hancock will set out further details of the changes in the House of Commons later.
He has urged people to “stay in this new year” regardless of what tier their local area is under – in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson would also be making a statement later about the return of schools in England in January, Hancock said.
Kaduna gives civil servants 12-day ultimatum on COVID vaccine
The Kaduna State Government has given all civil servants in the state 12 days to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be barred from office.
The ultimatum was announced in a statement issued on Tuesday by Muyiwa Adekeye, spokesman for the state governor, Nasir el-Rufai.
According to him, all civil servants are expected to be vaccinated by October 31, after which they would be denied entry into government offices if they failed to comply with the directive.
“The Kaduna State Government will from 31st October 2021 require compliance with COVID-19 protocols, especially facemasks and vaccination, for access to its offices,” the statement said.
“The Ministry of Health has since commenced the vaccination of all civil servants, and this is expected to be completed by 31st October 2021. All civil servants are required to be vaccinated by that date.
“Visitors to government offices will need to present their vaccination cards. Given the limited supply of vaccines that are currently available, visitors that have not yet been vaccinated will, in the interim, be permitted entry upon presentation of evidence of registration with the state Ministry of Health for the purpose of vaccination, while wearing their facemasks.”
Adekeye said the decision was taken following a review by the Kaduna COVID-19 task force, and urged residents to ensure strict adherence to the protocol for preventing the spread of infections.
According to the statement, Amina Mohammed-Baloni, Kaduna commissioner for health, has also asked residents to register at the nearest primary health centres for vaccination “so that the relevant authorities can easily contact them as more Covid-19 vaccines become available”.
The development comes weeks after Edo began its ‘no vaccination, no entry’ campaign, which bars unvaccinated civil servants from entering government offices.
Global COVID-19 Deaths Hit 5m As Delta Variant Rages
Worldwide deaths related to COVID-19 surpassed five million at the weekend, according to a Reuters tally, with unvaccinated people particularly exposed to the virulent Delta strain.
The variant has exposed the wide disparities in vaccination rates between rich and poor nations, and the upshot of vaccine hesitancy in some western nations.
More than half of all global deaths reported on a seven-day average were in the United States, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and India.
While it took just over a year for the COVID-19 death toll to hit 2.5 million, the next 2.5 million deaths were recorded in just under eight months, according to a Reuters analysis.
An average of 8,000 deaths were reported daily across the world over the last week, or around five deaths every minute. However, the global death rate has been slowing in recent weeks.
There has been increasing focus in recent days on getting vaccines to poorer nations, where many people are yet to receive a first dose, even as their richer counterparts have begun giving booster shots.
More than half of the world has yet to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data.
The World Health Organization this week said its COVAX distribution programme would, for the first time, distribute shots only to countries with the lowest levels of coverage.
Co-led by the WHO, COVAX has since January largely allocated doses proportionally among its 140-plus beneficiary states according to population size.
“For the October supply we designed a different methodology, only covering participants with low sources of supply,” Mariangela Simao, WHO Assistant Director General for Access to Vaccines, said in a recording of a conference presentation last week posted on the WHO’s website.
FG okays another COVID vaccine, Sinopharm, for Nigeria
Another COVID-19 vaccine, Sinopharm BBIBP-CorV, has been approved for use in Nigeria, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, has said.
He stated this on Tuesday at a media briefing in Abuja.
The approval is coming some weeks after NAFDAC approved the Moderna and Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in Nigeria.
The Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine is an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine and had been approved by the World Health Organisation for emergency use.
Shuaib said on Tuesday that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control had approved the vaccine three days ago.
“NAFDAC has approved Sinopharm vaccine. The approval was done three days ago. And yes, Sinopharm vaccine has also received WHO certification,” he said.
He also said, “It is a potential vaccine that we could use. There are so many vaccines out there, but one thing that we are very clear about is that we are not going to use all the available vaccines in Nigeria.
“At some point, we are going to draw a line in terms of the number of vaccines we would use, so that we can keep a close watch on the number of vaccines we are utilising in Nigeria.”
He said the vaccine was developed by Sinopharm’s Beijing Institute of Biological Products, “sometimes written as Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products”, noting that there are sometimes two different acronyms, BBIBP and BIBP, for the same vaccine.
“It completed phase three trials in Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru and United Arab Emirates (UAE), with over 60,000 participants. BBIBP-CorV shares, similar technology with CoronaVac and Covaxin, other inactivated virus vaccines for COVID-19,” he said.
“Its product name is SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine ‘Vero Cell’, not to be confused with the similar product name of CoronaVac,” Shuaib said.
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