The U.K. has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19, and the first doses will be administered from Jan. 4.
Some 100 million doses of the vaccine have been ordered and this, combined with the previously approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, will be enough to cover the 67 million U.K. population, according to health secretary Matt Hancock.
“It is truly fantastic news – and a triumph for British science – that the @UniofOxford/@AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use. We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible,” tweeted U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible. pic.twitter.com/cR4pRdZJlT
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 30, 2020
The news of the vaccine’s approval comes at a time when the U.K. is experiencing a huge surge in pandemic numbers. On Tuesday, 53,135 people tested positive for coronavirus, a new daily record since mass testing began. More than 71,000 people in Britain have now died from the virus.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper than Pfizer/BioNTech, and unlike the latter, which has to be stored at a temperature of -70C, it can be stored in a standard refrigerator.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be mass produced in India by the Serum Institute.
More than 600,000 people have been vaccinated in the U.K. so far, with the older population, who are at higher risk, being prioritized. Stars to have received the vaccine so far include “The Lord of the Rings” actor Ian McKellen and “The Great British Bake Off” judge Prue Leith.
A spokesperson for the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care said: “The priority should be to give as many people in at-risk groups their first dose, rather than providing the required two doses, in as short a time as possible. Everyone will still receive their second dose and this will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer-term protection.”
Variety spoke to a cross-section of U.K. film industry practitioners after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine began rolling out, and the mood was understandably upbeat.