Once again, there is good news from Great Britain in the fight against Sars-CoV-2. On Wednesday, the National Medicines Agency (MHRA) approved the vaccine developed at Oxford University as the world’s first supervisor. Starting next Monday, up to a million citizens are expected to receive their first dose every week. “We didn’t take any shortcuts,” said MHRA boss June Raine in London, the examination of her authority was robust as always.
The Oxford Institute is named after the English country doctor Edward Jenner (1749-1823), the pioneer of the smallpox vaccination. There, scientists under the direction of Professor Sarah Gilbert in collaboration with the Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca developed CHAdOx1.
The active ingredient is based on an adenovirus that is common among chimpanzees. This stimulates the production of proteins that are similar to those on the surface of the coronavirus. The immune system thus stimulated then produces both T cells and antibodies; the former fight the virus, the latter minimize the risk of infection. The immunity occurs after three weeks, it said at the MHRA press conference. A second dose should be given within twelve weeks.
The UK regulator, like its counterparts elsewhere, has cleared long-standing bureaucratic hurdles. The three phases of vaccine research, Gilbert reported to the BBC in July, would “normally take five years – we want to do it in four months.”
In the end it took twice as long, still an astonishing success for the scientists involved. Their preparation has two major advantages: It can be stored for several weeks at normal refrigerator temperatures, the price is the equivalent of 3.32 euros / 3.60 francs per dose, a fifth to a tenth lower than the competition.
When the participating pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced in November that all data had been transferred to the supervisory authority, there was, however, uncertainty regarding the efficiency of the active ingredient. This was given as 70 percent; in a small group, who had apparently only been given half the dose by mistake, a value of 90 percent was achieved after the second dose. This is also confirmed by an article by the researchers in the science magazine “Lancet”. However, the approval could not be given for this procedure, explained Professor Wei Shen Lim from the British Vaccination Committee, as the available data were “not robust enough”.
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Meanwhile, Margaret Keenan has already received the second dose of the active ingredient BNT162b2. The 91-year-old was vaccinated three weeks ago at the university clinic in Coventry, England, as the first patient in the world to be vaccinated with the preparation from the German company BioNTech and the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Since then, more than a million residents of the island have come through the minor sting, including many NHS employees and now residents of old people’s and nursing homes.
The news of the vaccination front instills a little confidence in the country, which has been badly hit by Covid-19. It was only on Tuesday that the new infections, which had been alarmingly high for weeks, reached a record level of 53,135; the average for the past week was 34,554 corona positives.
More than 85,000 corona deaths
According to the ONS statistics agency, the total number of people who died as a result of a corona infection was more than 85,000; the more conservative count by the Ministry of Health was 71,567 by Tuesday; on average over the past week, 479 Covid 19 patients died every day. In relation to the population, there were only more deaths across Europe in Belgium, Italy and Spain.
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The national health system NHS is about to be overwhelmed by the onslaught of patients, experts have been warning for days. London clinic bosses have asked their counterparts in Yorkshire, in the north of England, where the situation is a little more relaxed, for relief: If developments in the capital continue as they did before, patients will be sent north.
Health Secretary Matthew Hancock was delighted with the “great news” from Oxford, but used the special session of the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon to impose stricter restrictions on other parts of England. Like the south and south-east of the country, the residents of the entire Central Plateau region around the metropolises Birmingham and Nottingham now have to forego almost all social contacts, the retail trade will be closed except for grocery stores. Secondary school students are taught online only in January.