The U.K. became the first nation to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this month

By Claudia Harmata
December 30, 2020 03:40 PM
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AstraZeneca vaccine
Credit: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty

The United Kingdom has approved a second vaccine in their fight against the novel coronavirus.

On Wednesday, health officials approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the news a "triumph for British science."

"It is truly fantastic news — and a triumph for British science — that the @UniofOxford/@AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use," Johnson shared on Twitter. "We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible."

AstraZeneca's vaccine, which was developed with the University of Oxford, is cheaper to make than the existing vaccines — just $3 to $4 a dose — and can be stored for long periods of time because it only needs normal refrigeration temperature to maintain its viability, according to NBC. This makes it a particularly important development for vaccination efforts in developing countries.

AstraZeneca's vaccine comes just three weeks after the U.K. became the first nation to approve and administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this month. Since then, the United States has also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate, as well as Moderna's vaccine. U.S. health officials said that if AstraZeneca's vaccine is approved it would be in February at the earliest.

All three vaccines require two doses, the second administered three to four weeks after the first. The U.K.'s Department of Health said in a statement that those who receive the AstraZeneca vaccine will need to wait longer, 12 weeks, to get their second dose.

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"With two vaccines now approved, we will be able to vaccinate a greater number of people who are at highest risk, protecting them from the disease and reducing mortality and hospitalization," The U.K.'s Department of Health said.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that the country will begin rolling out the 100 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine on Jan. 4.

News of the second vaccine comes as the U.K. is in the midst of another spike in cases. NBC reported that the country confirmed 53,000 new cases on Tuesday alone.

As of Wednesday, there have been at least 2,382,800 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.K. since the start of the pandemic and 71,567 death, according to Public Health England.

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