Hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown to be imposed this Thursday, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca revealed the country’s health regulator has begun a review of the potential vaccine.
A spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company said: “We confirm the MHRA’s (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) rolling review of our potential COVID-19 vaccine.”
During these reviews, regulators are able to see clinical data in real time and speak to drug makers on manufacturing processes and trials to accelerate the approval process.
It is designed to help speed up evaluations of promising drugs and vaccines during a public health emergency.
On Friday, the MHRA were also reported to have begun another accelerated review for a vaccine from Pfizer Inc.
AstraZeneca – alongside Oxford University – and Pfizer are the frontrunners in the race to develop a vaccine as the daily infection rates continue to soar.
At the end of October, there was a breakthrough with the Astra-Zeneca/Oxford vaccine after analysis by Bristol University found greater evidence the vaccine triggers an immune response.
This study proved the vaccine is correctly programmed to replicate the “spike protein” associated with the deadly virus.
The protein is what the body’s immune system will learn to attack if infected with coronavirus.
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Dr David Matthews, of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, said: “This is an important study as we are able to confirm that the genetic instructions underpinning this vaccine, which is being developed as fast as safely possible, are correctly followed when they get into a human cell.
“Until now, the technology hasn’t been able to provide answers with such clarity, but we now know the vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness.”
Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, added:
“This is a wonderful example of cross-disciplinary collaboration, using new technology to examine exactly what the vaccine does when it gets inside a human cell.
“The study confirms that large amounts of the coronavirus spike protein are produced with great accuracy, and this goes a long way to explaining the success of the vaccine in inducing a strong immune response.”
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During a press conference yesterday, Mr Johnson announced a new national lockdown and warned Christmas will be “very different” this year.
Under the new lockdown measures, people are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave such as work which cannot be done from home.
Meeting indoors or in private gardens will now be banned but individuals can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place.
Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail across the country will close but takeaways will remain open.
Entertainment venues including gyms will also close again.
People are still allowed to form support bubbles.
On Saturday, the UK recorded another 21,915 new cases and another 326 people had died within 28 dates of testing positive.
The UK is the ninth country to reach the milestone of more than a million confirmed cases.