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BSI response to approval of Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

30 December 2020

Today, the UK Government announced that they have accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for use. In response, the British Society for Immunology has released the following statement.

Professor Arne Akbar, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“The approval of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is brilliant news and an extremely positive step forward in our ability to control this pandemic.  It is only 12 months ago that we first learnt about the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. To have developed a safe and effective vaccine in that time is nothing short of remarkable.

“The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) will have carefully scrutinised the evidence on this COVID-19 vaccine to ensure that it is both safe and effective. Although development of this vaccine has occurred quickly, all the same rigorous safety standards and checks have still been carried out. Indeed, we already have much of that evidence in the public domain from December’s The Lancet paper. From the data presented in that paper, the vaccine showed a good safety profile and no individual who received the vaccine subsequently suffered from severe COVID-19.

“There is now much work to do to roll out this vaccine across the country at the speed required and we need to support our dedicated healthcare professionals in the logistical challenges ahead. Additionally, we must build public confidence in the vaccine to ensure high uptake.  We urgently need a high-profile, multifaceted engagement campaign that listens and responds to the public’s questions around the vaccine.

“COVID-19 is a global pandemic, which means to stop the spread of the disease, we must have vaccines that can be easily rolled out to all countries. The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine brings the added benefit that it can be stored and transported at fridge temperature, meaning that it can utilise existing delivery mechanisms to be rolled out to all countries in the world much easier.

“The UK leads the world for the quality of our immunology research. We should be extremely proud of the University of Oxford team and their international collaborators for the monumental work they have carried out to develop a safe and effective vaccine so quickly. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many thousands of people who volunteered to take part in this vaccine trial. They have played a critical role and we would not be able to have developed a vaccine so quickly without them.”