After British regulators on Wednesday approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine to provide immunity against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), UK health minister Matt Hancock said the approval was “good news for the whole world”. Speaking to Sky News, Hancock highlighted the advantages of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, developed at Oxford University, over other Covid-19 vaccines in terms of cost and storage feasibility.
“It’s good news for the whole world because this vaccine is relatively cheap to produce…because it’s relatively easy to handle and just can be stored at a normal fridge temperature,” he said.
Hancock denied setting a target for vaccinating everyone, however, the UK minister added that he hopes the country “will be able to get out of this by the spring.” He also admitted that the National Health Service (NHS) has been facing a huge amount of pressure due to the surge in Covid-19 cases, saying the vaccine “doesn’t take away from the really difficult winter weeks that we’ve got between now and then”.
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The Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, AZD1222, can be stored at fridge temperature of 2°C to 8°C for at least six months, while Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines need to be stored at a much colder temperature. Pfizer’s vaccine needs ultra-cold storage at around -75°C and can be kept in the fridge for five days. On the other hand, Moderna’s vaccine, mRNA-1273, has to be stored at -20°C and is expected to remain stable at standard refrigerated conditions for up to 30 days.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine also scores better on pricing as it costs a fraction of the price set by Pfizer and Moderna and will be manufactured in multiple low- and middle-income countries, including India and Brazil. Last month, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India (SII), had told Hindustan Times that the vaccine will be priced in India at Rs 500-600. SII has partnered with AstraZeneca to conduct clinical trials and manufacture the vaccine in India.
The Phase 3 trials of AZD1222 against SARS-CoV-2 across two different dose regimens showed an average efficacy of 70.4%, with no hospitalisations or severe disease observed in the vaccinated groups from three weeks after the first dose. The efficacy results are based on data obtained from 11,636 volunteers across the United Kingdom and Brazil.