Green light for Oxford AstraZeneca.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has welcomed news that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the UK.
This means we can now proceed with arrangements for doses of the vaccine, which is the second coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to be approved for use after the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, to be made available to our distribution centres throughout Scotland.
The vaccine has been procured on behalf of the four nations by the UK Government, who have ordered 100 million doses, of which Scotland will get 8.2% based on its population. We will begin to roll the vaccine out from 4th January, in the settings we have already been delivering in, moving out into more community settings from the 11th January.
For this vaccine as for Pfizer, the intention is to provide an important layer of protection to all adults but particularly those most at risk from serious illness and death from COVID-19. With age as the greatest risk factor, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have retained the same phase 1 priority list. The priority now is to vaccinate as many people with their first dose as quickly as possible, working through that priority list and the advice that the second dose for both vaccines can be given up to 12 weeks after the first means we can maximise this protection quicker than planned. The second dose remains critical for longer term protection and to complete the course.
Ms Freeman said:
“At the end of a very difficult year this is a truly excellent piece of news. Oxford AstraZeneca has the major advantage of being much easier to store and transport, which means it is easier to administer in local settings. We are also expecting to receive it in significantly larger quantities than the Pfizer vaccine.
“With the four Chief Medical officers agreeing with the advice that we should prioritise delivering first vaccine doses to as many people on the JCVI Phase 1 priority list in the shortest possible timeframe, we are now able to maximise the impact of the vaccine programme in its primary aims of reducing mortality and hospitalisations for those at greatest risk.”
“When it is your turn to be vaccinated you will be contacted by your local health board and I urge you to please take up the offer.
“Vaccination is one of the most important tools we have as we work our way out of this pandemic. But as we vaccinate as many people as quickly as supplies allow, we have a new more transmissible strain of COVID-19. That makes it vital that we all continue our work to suppress the virus in Scotland, rigorously complying with the restrictions where we live and making sure we continue to wear face coverings, maintain 2m distance from others outside our own household and wash our hands regularly. These three strands - following all we need to do to suppress the virus, using our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and rolling out vaccination as fast as supplies allow- are the three critical actions that will see us move, step by step, to a brighter spring and summer in 2021.”
The clinical risk priority order for deployment of the vaccines remains unchanged and applies to both vaccines. Both are very safe and effective vaccines.
The four UK Chief Medical Officers have commented that clinical advice supports delivering first vaccine doses to as many people on the JCVI Phase 1 priority list in the shortest possible timeframe and allowing for second doses to be given within 12 weeks. This will maximise the impact of the vaccine programme in its primary aims of reducing mortality and hospitalisations and protecting the NHS and equivalent health services.
Vaccinations will continue to the first priority groups as set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, people over the age of 80 and frontline health and social care workers. The programme will then be rolled out to the rest of the population sequentially based on the JCVI’s priority list, starting with people aged 75 to 79 years of age, followed next by 70-74-year-olds alongside those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.