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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with a vial of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine at Wockhardt's pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in November in Wrexham, Wales. Photo: Paul Ellis/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University was approved for use in the United Kingdom on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The U.K. is the first country to authorize this coronavirus vaccine that's cheaper and easier to store than others. It's less than three weeks since British regulators became the first in the West to give emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine — Pfizer-BioNTech's.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • It paves the way for a huge immunization drive as COVID-19 cases spike across the U.K., with millions more people in England expected to be placed under the nation's toughest tier 4 restrictions.
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC, "We've got enough of this vaccine on order to vaccinate the whole population — 100 million doses. Add that to the 30 million doses of Pfizer and that's enough for two doses for the entire population."

The big picture: Peer-reviewed research published earlier this month confirmed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was about 62% effective in preventing symptomatic infections after two standard doses.

  • That's not as high as the roughly 95% efficacy reported by the Pfizer and Moderna, but its advantages include easier distribution, and no one who received an Oxford-AstraZeneca dose has developed a severe infection or been hospitalized.
  • While the coronavirus vaccine has generally been administered in two doses, the British government said it plans to "prioritize giving as many people as possible a single dose," AP notes.

What to watch: AstraZeneca said in a statement the first inoculations from this vaccine were due to begin in the new year and that the company aims to supply "millions of doses" by the end of March.

  • Oxford and AstraZeneca have pledged to distribute their vaccine at a lower cost of about $3-4 per dose and committed to providing over 1 billion doses to developing nations.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

Updated Dec 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.