The Oxford / AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is still under review, the UK medical body has said, amid reports that doses could be ready by 28 December.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is expected to give the vaccine the green light sometime in the week of December 28, leading to its immediate release by the NHS.
But Whitehall sources said that while they hoped the vaccine would be available that week, he was not at all sure, and authorization could be delayed until early January.
The delay has caused frustration in Whitehall and the NHS, with the vaccine taking much longer to approve than the Pfizer vaccine, which was released in the UK last week.
Problems surrounding the results of the first trial, published by Oxford University last month, appear to have been the cause of the delay, with data from the university providing different results for vaccine efficacy.
Data from the university suggested that the vaccine has a 62% effectiveness when followed by one full dose and another full dose. However, when people were given half a dose and then a full dose at least a month later, its effectiveness rose to 90%. This results in an average efficiency of 70.4%.
A report in the Daily Telegraph said the MHRA would authorize the vaccine on December 28 or 29, after final data on vaccine performance was submitted to the MHRA on Monday.
Large-scale test sites, including football pitches, would be opened in the first week of January to allow the UK’s largest mass testing program to date, the newspaper said. .
But an MHRA spokesman said: “Our ongoing review of the Oxford / AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is ongoing.
“Our vaccine approval process is designed to ensure that an authorized Covid-19 vaccine meets the expected high standards of safety, quality and efficacy.
“Any vaccine must undergo robust clinical trials in accordance with international standards, with a review provided by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and no vaccine would be authorized for administration in the UK. if the expected standards of safety, quality and efficiency are not met. ”
Professor Sarah Gilbert, who led the vaccine design at Oxford University, said on Friday she hoped the vaccine was “not too far away”.
She said the results of the vaccine tests had been promising, but also “interesting” and “researchers immediately came up with ideas for wanting more work”.
“It was not the highest possible standard,” she said. “But we are very pleased with the performance of the vaccine, very much looking forward to the point where people can begin to receive the vaccine outside of clinical trials.
“Of course, I can’t hurt that moment, the regulators need to take the time to make decisions but I hope that stage is not too far off. ”
Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the Oxford vaccine agreement could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus vaccine in care homes.
“We are currently dealing with this difficult Pfizer vaccine,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
“With the assumption that we are going to be licensed for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is much more familiar because it is much more like the flu vaccine, I think we can spread at a much faster pace, but certainly over in the next few weeks and the next month or two we expect all care homes to be covered. ”