United Kingdom to roll out Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in January

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The United Kingdom is expected to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca within days, local papers reported.

Ministers are drawing up plans to start vaccinating the public with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab from January 4, the Sunday Telegraph reported, adding that “mass vaccination centres at sports stadiums and conference venues” could launch as soon as the second week of January.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine still needs the approval of the U.K. regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The Sunday Times, citing unnamed government officials, reported that the MHRA is expected to give the green light before Thursday, while the Telegraph said the vaccine will be approved on December 28 or 29.

Responding to the reports, a U.K. Health Department spokeswoman told Reuters: “We must now give the MHRA the time to carry out its important work and we must wait for its advice.”

According to the Telegraph, the government wants 2 million people to receive either the Oxford jab or the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine — which is already being administered in the U.K. — within two weeks.

The government’s efforts to step up its vaccination campaign come as the country struggles to contain a highly transmissible new strain of the virus. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told the Sunday Times that while “we think the vaccine should remain effective” against the new strain, “we can’t be sure, so we’re going to test that.”

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

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