sunny.png
Thursday September 23rd, 2021 8:51AM

UK okays 'vaccine for the world'; extends time between doses

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LONDON (AP) — Britain authorized an easy-to-handle coronavirus vaccine Wednesday and decided to stretch out the time between doses to allow more people to get some level of protection faster as infections surge. The first greenlight for the shot dubbed the “vaccine for the world” brought a measure of hope that the pandemic could be brought under control.

The vaccine developed by Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca is expected to be relied on in many countries because of its low cost and the fact that it can be kept in refrigerators rather than at the ultra-cold or freezer temperatures some other vaccines require.

“This wonderful news brings renewed hope at a time of rising infections and unprecedented pressure on health services in the U.K. and beyond. It is now critical that this hope can be shared by all nations," said Anna Marriot, Health Policy Manager at Oxfam aid agency.

Even as the authorization was welcomed as a significant development in efforts to contain the virus that has killed nearly 1.8 million, the change in British policy on administering the shots drove home concerns about a new, potentially more contagious variant that authorities blame for rising hospitalizations in the United Kingdom. The new variant has been found in several countries, including the U.S.

Because infections are spreading so rapidly in the U.K., officials are now recommending prioritizing delivering a first dose to as many people as possible for both of the vaccines authorized for use in the country: the AstraZeneca one and another from Pfizer-BioNTech. Authorities say both protect people even after just one of the two recommended doses — and that increasing the time between doses might even have a benefit.

While the U.K.’s chief medical officers say the second dose may be important for longer term protection, one official said that the country urgently needed “rapid and high levels of vaccine uptake.”

“This will allow the greatest number of eligible people to receive vaccine in the shortest time possible, and that will protect the greatest number of lives,” Wei Shen Lim, chair of the U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told reporters Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the U.K. have already received at least one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the rollout of the AstraZeneca one will start Jan. 4. The government says everyone will get a second shot within 12 weeks of the first.

AstraZeneca noted that a pause of between four and 12 weeks between doses has been shown to be effective in trials.

“The immune response data show that as you have a longer gap between the two doses, you do see higher immune responses,” Oxford University’s Dr. Andrew Pollard, one of the leaders of the vaccine development team, told The Associated Press. “That’s not a surprise, that’s what we see with many vaccines.”

But Pfizer responded to the new policy by saying that any “alternative” dosing regimens should be tracked by health authorities. It noted that two doses are needed for “maximum protection” against the disease, and that it has no data that shows protection from just one dose lasts longer than 21 days. The vaccine was tested with two doses, three weeks apart.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use, did not endorse one vaccine over the other. And it updated its guidance on the Pfizer vaccine, saying it could be given to pregnant and breastfeeding women. It added that only people with an allergy to its ingredients should avoid it, rather than people with severe allergies to food, vaccines and medicines in general.

Independent experts, meanwhile, welcomed the decision to spread out shots, saying that giving more people the first dose quickly could be crucial, coming as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the U.K. has surpassed the first peak of the outbreak in the spring, with authorities blaming a new variant that was first identified in southeast England.

“With the rapidly spreading new variant, I have no doubt this decision will save many lives,” said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich School of Medicine.

Britain has recorded more than 71,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, the second-highest death toll in Europe after Italy, and reported a record number of new confirmed cases Tuesday. In an effort to slow the spread, the British government on Wednesday extended its toughest coronavirus restrictions to more than three-quarters of England’s population.

Experts believe the vaccines already authorized will work against the new variant, but they are continuing to study that.

Beyond Britain, there are hopes the AstraZeneca shot, which Pollard has called a “vaccine for the world,” will offer a path out of the pandemic.

The ultra-cold or freezer temperature storage required by other vaccines is “very impractical” in developing countries, said Dr. Gillies O’Bryan-Tear, chair of policy and communications for Britain’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine. It means the AstraZeneca one “may reach more parts of the world than the Pfizer one,” he said.

The company has also said it will sell it for $2.50 a dose and plans to make up to 3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

Partial results from studies in almost 24,000 people in Britain, Brazil and South Africa suggest the AstraZeneca shots are safe and about 70% effective for preventing illness from coronavirus infection.

Questions also remain about how well the vaccine protects older people. Only 12% of study participants were over 55 and they were enrolled later, so there hasn’t been enough time to see whether they develop infections at a lower rate than those not given the vaccine.

Britain’s action likely means the World Health Organization could soon clear the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in a global effort to help poor countries, called COVAX. The initiative has secured access to at least 100 million doses of the vaccine, with options and other deals to buy more. But none can be distributed until greenlighted by WHO.

The U.N. health agency does not license or regulate vaccines itself, but typically evaluates vaccines once they have been approved by a regulator such as the U.K.'s. WHO experts can then recommend that the shots to be “pre-qualified” so they can be bought by donors for developing countries.

Most coronavirus vaccines to be used in poorer countries likely will be made by the Serum Institute of India, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make 1 billion doses. In June, the pharmaceutical company announced that the Serum Institute would produce 400 million doses by the end of 2020 but as of early December, only about 50 million doses had been manufactured after production was halted several times.

In addition to the Serum Institute, AstraZeneca has deals with vaccine makers in Brazil, South Africa and China.

Munir Pirmohamed, of the Commission on Human Medicines, added a note of caution following Wednesday's authorization of the vaccine.

“Everybody said that we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. I completely agree with that," he said. "However, we we’re not there yet. While we hurtle towards that light, it is really important that everybody continues to follow government guidelines.”

___

Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Associated Press writers Maria Cheng in Toronto, Jill Lawless in London and John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
UK okays 'vaccine for the world'; extends time between doses
Britain has authorized an easy-to-handle coronavirus vaccine and decided to stretch out the time between doses to allow more people to get some level of protection faster as infections surge
11:48AM ( 5 minutes ago )
Trump's $2,000 checks all but dead as GOP Senate refuses aid
President Donald Trump’s push for bigger $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks is all but dead in the Senate
11:43AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Nashville man's girlfriend warned he was building bombs
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show officers visited Anthony Warner’s home in 2019 after his girlfriend told them he was building bombs in an RV trailer at his house
11:38AM ( 15 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
First reported US case of virus variant triggers questions
The new and apparently more contagious variant of the coronavirus that has set off alarm in Britain has been reported for the first time in the U.S., in a Colorado man who hadn’t been traveling
10:29AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Highest-tier limits extended to most of England
The British government has extended its highest tier of restrictions to three-quarters of England’s population, saying a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus has reached most of the country
10:24AM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump, Biden headline final push in Georgia Senate runoff
Campaigns and outside groups are making a final push to turn out election-weary Georgians whose votes will determine control of the U.S. Senate
9:32AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
EU officials sign Brexit trade deal as UK lawmakers debate
The European Union’s top officials have formally signed the post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom, as lawmakers in London get set to vote on the agreement
6:11AM ( 5 hours ago )
Quake aftershocks keep people out of homes in Croatia
A series of tremors have jolted central Croatia a day after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake killed at least seven people, injured dozens and left several towns and villages in ruins
6:09AM ( 5 hours ago )
No travel history in 1st reported US case of virus variant
A new variant of the coronavirus that may be more contagious has been found in a Colorado man who had not been traveling
5:55AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Yemeni officials: Blast at Aden airport kills 22, wounds 50
Security officials say a large explosion has struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed Cabinet landed there
10:49AM ( 1 hour ago )
Restoring longleaf pines, keystone of once vast ecosystems
Three centuries ago, much of what is now the southern United States was covered with fire-dependent savannas anchored by lofty pines
10:36AM ( 1 hour ago )
UK puts millions more under tight restrictions as cases soar
The British government has extended its toughest coronavirus restrictions to three-quarters of England’s population, saying a fast-spreading variant of the virus has reached most of the country
10:33AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
World shares edge higher as hopes turn to stimulus, vaccines
Shares have edged higher in world markets as investors wrap up trading for 2020, anticipating a dose of fresh support for the U.S. economy and efforts to speed up coronavirus vaccinations to help curb the pandemic
4:28AM ( 7 hours ago )
The Latest: Louisiana congressman-elect dies from COVID-19
Luke Letlow, who was to have been Louisiana’s newest Republican member of the U.S. House, has died from complications related to COVID-19 only days before being sworn into office
10:28PM ( 13 hours ago )
The Latest: Los Angeles hospitals shifting to 'crisis care'
California’s top health official says hospitals in hard-hit Los Angeles County are turning to “crisis care” and bracing for the coronavirus surge to worsen in the new year
7:14PM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
The Latest: UAE shatters record for new daily infections
The United Arab Emirates has shattered its single-day record of new coronavirus infections, with 1,723 cases recorded on Wednesday
5:43AM ( 6 hours ago )
The Latest: Germany reports more than 1,000 deaths in a day
German authorities have reported more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths in one day for the first time since the pandemic began
3:56AM ( 7 hours ago )
The Latest: Chinese vaccine shipment arrives in Turkey
A first batch of vaccines developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac has arrived in Turkey
1:34AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
The Latest: Hospitalizations in England exceed spring's peak
Official figures show more people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in England than at the first peak of the outbreak in the spring
4:11AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Sri Lanka reopens to tourists after 9 months
Sri Lanka has reopened to tourists after more than nine months
2:38AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: India confirms UK variant in 6 recent returnees
India has found six people who returned from the United Kingdom in recent weeks infected with a new variant of the coronavirus
1:19AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Health Care
Trump's $2,000 checks all but dead as GOP Senate refuses aid
President Donald Trump’s push for bigger $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks is all but dead in the Senate
11:43AM ( 12 minutes ago )
Nashville man's girlfriend warned he was building bombs
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show officers visited Anthony Warner’s home in 2019 after his girlfriend told them he was building bombs in an RV trailer at his house
11:38AM ( 16 minutes ago )
AP PHOTOS: Louisiana residents struggle months after storms
Two months after Hurricanes Laura and Delta ravaged southwest Louisiana, the state and its people are still far from recovered
11:35AM ( 20 minutes ago )
British lawmakers approve post-Brexit trade deal with EU
Britain’s House of Commons has voted resoundingly to approve a trade deal with the European Union, paving the way for an orderly break with the bloc that will finally complete the U.K.’s years-long Brexit journey
11:33AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Study of virus screening at concert reports zero infections
The organizers of an indoor music festival in Barcelona to test the effectiveness of same-day coronavirus screening say there was zero transmission inside the venue
11:16AM ( 39 minutes ago )