AstraZeneca/Oxford: How long until we can be vaccinated? © Sean Elias/PA

AstraZeneca/Oxford: How long until we can be vaccinated?

The government has secured 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine has reported interim results from a Phase 3 trial showing the jab can prevent the majority of people from developing the disease.

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But what do these findings mean for people in the UK being vaccinated?

What’s in the pipeline for the UK?

The government has secured 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University coronavirus vaccine, which is almost enough for most of the population, as each individual will require two doses.

But officials have also invested in the six other COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development, across four different types, representing more than 340 million doses.

The deals cover four different classes: adenoviral vaccines, mRNA vaccines, inactivated whole virus vaccines and protein adjuvant vaccines.

The UK has secured access to:

  • 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine
  • 30 million doses from Janssen
  • 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – the first agreement the firms signed with any government
  • 60 million doses of a vaccine being developed by Valneva
  • 60 million doses of protein adjuvant vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur
  • 5 million doses of the jab on offer from Moderna in the US

Read more about the Oxford vaccine:

How soon will vaccinations start?

The military and NHS staff are on standby to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine across the UK from the start of December, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

However, a COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

But it is thought the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine could be rolled out within weeks if approved, and the company said it was preparing to submit the data to authorities immediately.

Downing Street has also said the UK will have procured 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be distributed by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, the Moderna vaccine could arrive in the UK as early as next spring.

If the vaccine development is successful, Valneva will provide 60 million doses in the second half of 2021.

The government then has options for more than 40 million doses in 2022, and a further 30-90 million doses, in aggregate, across 2023 to 2025.

In what order will we get the coronavirus vaccine?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has examined data on who suffers the worst outcomes from coronavirus and who is at highest risk of death.

Its interim guidance says the order of priority should be:

  • Older adults in a care home and care home workers
  • All those aged 80 and over and health and social care workers, though they may move up the list
  • Anyone 75 and over
  • People aged 70 and over
  • All those aged 65 and over
  • High-risk adults under 65
  • Moderate-risk adults under 65
  • All those aged 60 and over
  • All those 55 and over
  • All those aged 50 and over
  • The rest of the population, with priority yet to be determined.

Read more about COVID-19 vaccines:

How will a vaccine be rolled out?

Work has been going on behind the scenes to ensure that NHS staff are ready to start delivering jabs to the most vulnerable, as well as health and care workers, as a priority.

Mass vaccination clinics have been proposed, with a number of venues suggested, including sports halls, leisure centres and even the Copper Box stadium in London’s Olympic Park.

The NHS Nightingale Hospitals have also been earmarked as sites for mass vaccination clinics – among other uses.

In addition, NHS leaders have said there will be “roving teams” deployed to vaccinate care home residents and workers.

Based on the current information, the vaccines being developed require two doses per patient, with a 21-28 day gap between doses.

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New regulations allowing more healthcare workers to administer flu and potential COVID-19 vaccines have also been introduced by the government.

How do scientists develop vaccines for new viruses?

Vaccines work by fooling our bodies into thinking that we’ve been infected by a virus. Our body mounts an immune response, and builds a memory of that virus which will enable us to fight it in the future.

Viruses and the immune system interact in complex ways, so there are many different approaches to developing an effective vaccine. The two most common types are inactivated vaccines (which use harmless viruses that have been ‘killed’, but which still activate the immune system), and attenuated vaccines (which use live viruses that have been modified so that they trigger an immune response without causing us harm).

A more recent development is recombinant vaccines, which involve genetically engineering a less harmful virus so that it includes a small part of the target virus. Our body launches an immune response to the carrier virus, but also to the target virus.

Over the past few years, this approach has been used to develop a vaccine (called rVSV-ZEBOV) against the Ebola virus. It consists of a vesicular stomatitis animal virus (which causes flu-like symptoms in humans), engineered to have an outer protein of the Zaire strain of Ebola.

Vaccines go through a huge amount of testing to check that they are safe and effective, whether there are any side effects, and what dosage levels are suitable. It usually takes years before a vaccine is commercially available.

Sometimes this is too long, and the new Ebola vaccine is being administered under ‘compassionate use’ terms: it has yet to complete all its formal testing and paperwork, but has been shown to be safe and effective. Something similar may be possible if one of the many groups around the world working on a vaccine for the new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is successful.

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