Astra-Oxford Covid Vaccine Gains First Clearance With U.K. Nod

AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine won U.K. clearance, marking the first approval worldwide for a shot that’s faced questions but will be key to mass immunizations.

The vaccine will be prioritized for the country’s most vulnerable groups early in the new year, according to statements from the company and the government on Wednesday. It’s the second coronavirus injection to be cleared for emergency use in U.K. after Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s in early December.

The ruling will help the U.K. ramp up vaccination and provides vindication for the homegrown shot, which has faced questions about discrepancies in its clinical-trial results. The government has invested more in the product than in any other vaccine, buying 100 million doses. The shot can be deployed swiftly because it’s is easier to transport and store than the Pfizer-BioNTech one, requiring only refrigerator temperatures rather than deep freezing.

A first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine will be given to as many people as possible, followed by a second dose within 12 weeks. A government advisory group said the priority should be to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible rather than completing a two-dose regimen right away.

The approval comes as the U.K. seals its divorce from the European Union with a trade deal and tightens lockdowns. Coronavirus cases are surging in the country, with a new strain raising concern globally.

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