The UK can expect to receive 19 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Oxford University jab by the end of this year, the head of the pharmaceutical giant has said.
Tom Keith-Roach, president of AstraZeneca UK, said a further 15 million doses could be ready by the end of the year alongside the four million doses that are already on standby.
It comes as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) begins to analyse phase three data from the clinical trial scientists, which shows the jab is up to 90% effective.
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In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Keith-Roach said: “When it comes to the UK, the UK government were one of the first governments around the world, in May, to step forward with a supply agreement.
“So we agreed with the UK to supply 100 million doses as part of a three billion (global) commitment by the end of next year.
“Where we stand today is we have four million doses available right now and we’ve got enough active that we think we will be able to make a further 15 million available to the UK by the end of this year.
“Subject to regulatory approval, it could actually be 19 million doses by the end of this year (to the UK).”
Expressing his delight over the efficacy results, Mr Keith-Roach said he was “thrilled beyond words” and the data was “hugely exciting and important”.
He told PA: “What the data that we reported today shows is that we have a highly effective vaccine.
“It showed up to 90% efficacy in preventing infection when used at the optimal dose.
“And interestingly, we actually saw zero hospitalisations or cases of severe infection in patients who were vaccinated, and taken together that’s really encouraging.
“It’s both preventing infections, but it also seems to be preventing any infections that do occur from being serious or resulting in hospitalisation.
“The second really important thing is that no safety concerns were observed.
“This vaccine uses a modified adenovirus vector, so a modified form of the common cold.
“It’s a very well established and researched technology, and we saw no serious side effects.”
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Asked if he was hopeful the MHRA could approve the jab in the next week or so for the UK, Mr Keith-Roach said: “What I would say is, of course, that’s up to the regulator and the Government, but our experience so far with all of our interactions with all of the agencies and the government in the UK, is we’re all absolutely aligned to do everything we can to bring this to UK citizens as soon as humanly possible.
“And I would expect that to be the philosophy over the coming weeks as well.”
On the 90% efficacy result found from a half dose followed by a full dose, Mr Keith-Roach said: “We’ve proved significance in all of those subgroups to a p value of 0.0001.
“So these are highly statistically significant efficacy results in all subgroups. And so I think the regulators will look at it on that basis.”
Mr Keith-Roach said the vaccine could be rolled out quickly, with millions of doses available globally by the end of March.
“We really believe that this vaccine has the potential to make vaccination a reality for hundreds of millions of patients globally and quickly by the end of quarter one,” he said.
“We’re currently scaling up to produce one hundred to 200 million doses a month, and with a commitment to supply at no profit for the period of the pandemic.
“So what that should mean is that it’s between £2 and £3 a dose.”
He said the fact the vaccine relied on normal fridge temperatures meant that “economies around the world, not just the most developed nations are going to be able to handle and distribute easily.”
Published modelling data suggests vaccine efficacy at 60% or more will have a substantial impact on the course of the pandemic and, at 80%, social distancing and all other restrictions will be eliminated, he added.
Asked if vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna could end the global pandemic, he said: “That’s absolutely our ambition.
“This is clearly not the end of the war, but it’s a bit like the discovery of radar in the Second World War to me.
“Now we actually have the technology that we need to fight this virus and win.
“And I think the fact that we now have three companies who’ve shown really statistically significant efficacy results in a phase three study, with no unexpected safety findings, gives us the best possible platform to achieve that.
“But clearly with the number of people potentially affected globally, we need all three of us going full speed, leveraging all aspects of our global supply chains in order to make that happen.”