London: The UK on Wednesday approved a cheaper and easy-to-handle COVID-19 vaccine developed by scientists at Oxford University and produced by AstraZeneca.

This is the second coronavirus vaccine to be cleared for rollout in Britain after the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

The Oxford vaccine also has a tie-up with the Serum Institute of India, which has been keenly watching the evaluation by the British regulator, after the final data was submitted.

The approval by the British regulator means the vaccine is both “safe and effective.” “It is truly fantastic news – and a triumph for British science – that the vaccine has been approved for use. We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The transportation and storage requirements mean that it needs to be kept at temperatures of 2C to 8C, which is similar to a conventional fridge, for up to six months. This is ideally suited for Indian conditions. Though each person will require two doses, it will be easier to transport and deliver; as against this, the storage and delivery of the Pfizer vaccine is a logistical challenge in a country like India with its huge population. The fact that it is also cheap and easy to mass produce and administer enhances its appeal in a pharmaceutical market that will soon be crowded with corona vaccines.

No approval yet by Indian drug regulator: Meanwhile, the analysis of the additional data and information submitted by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech is still being conducted by the regulator, the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation; no decision has been taken on rollout of the vaccine and the Subject Expert Committee’s next meeting will be held on January 1.

The committee met on Wednesday to consider the emergency use authorisation request of Pfizer, SII and Bharat Biotech Private Ltd.

America’s Pfizer was the first one to apply for the accelerated approval on December 4, followed by the SII and Bharat Biotech, which applied on December 6 and 7, respectively.

On December 9, the Subject Expert Committee had asked the SII and Bharat Biotech to submit more data and information to secure approval.

The approval by the British regulator has cleared the decks for the Oxford jab, which can be available ‘from next week.’ This has renewed hope that the end of the pandemic could just be months away. At least, UK could ‘get out of this by spring’.

Britain recorded on Tuesday more than 53,000 infections in a record daily high amid fears hospitals may be overwhelmed by spiralling admissions within days.

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