British regulators are expected to approve AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in a matter of days.
The United Kingdom's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency could clear the drug as early as Tuesday, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
The drugmaker has touted the vaccine, developed by Oxford University scientists, as cheaper and easier to store than Pfizer’s. Its clearance could significantly bolster the British government’s goal of mass inoculations of the most vulnerable segments of the population by early spring, according to the newspaper.
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is the vaccine right now that is going to be able to immunize the planet more effectively, more rapidly than any other vaccine we have,” Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical journal, told CNBC earlier this month.
Horton added that ending the pandemic will require worldwide distribution of vaccines, “because even if we immunize one country, the threat then is you reintroduce the virus from another country that is not protected.”
AstraZeneca’s initial trial data was criticized in November, with the head of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed noting the drugmaker showed 90 percent efficacy only for subjects younger than 55, a lower-risk demographic.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot later said further trial data indicate broader efficacy.
“We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else,” he told the Times of London this month. “I can’t tell you more because we will publish at some point.”
The U.K. is set to consider the vaccine as a more infectious variant of the virus has been detected in the country and elsewhere. Pfizer has expressed confidence its vaccine will be effective against the new strain. Soriot said he believes AstraZeneca’s vaccine will also be effective, but he said the company is running tests to be certain.