A vaccine for COVID-19 developed in the UK has been formally approved and is expected to be rolled out across the country from next week.

The vaccine, developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, has become the first in the world to be officially authorised for use, following trials which suggested that inoculation would lead to up to 95% protection against coronavirus.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – the UK medicines regulator – after just 10 months of development.

The vaccine being developed by scientists at Oxford University also produced strong results last week, but has not yet been approved for use.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine but the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that he expects 800,000 doses to be made available next week before “several millions” are rolled out across the country in December. The Government hopes that the Oxford vaccine will also receive authorisation, helping the rollout of the vaccination programme in the coming months.

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations has said that the vaccine will initially be offered to vulnerable categories, starting with care home residents, care home staff, over 80s and frontline NHS workers. People between the ages of 16 and 64 with “underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality” will be given sixth place priority in the first phase of the vaccination programme, which will be carried out in hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies and specialised centres.

The vaccine will be administered in two doses, three weeks apart, with the second dose acting as a ‘booster’.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, told the BBC that it will represent “the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history”.

The news comes as most Oxford University students prepare to leave their accommodation at the close of an unprecedented term, with some departing as early as Wednesday. There were 21 positive test results reported by the University’s Early Alert System in the week 21-27 November, a positivity rate of 15%. This represents a significant fall in positive cases since earlier in Michaelmas term.

Oxford has joined other UK universities in offering students rapid Lateral Flow Tests in order to minimise the spread of COVID-19 from university campuses to families and loved ones over the Christmas holidays.

Following the end of the national lockdown at midnight on Wednesday, Oxfordshire entered Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions which prohibit households from mixing indoors. However, it is not yet known what rules will be in place when students return for Hilary term in January.

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Oliver Shaw

Oliver (he/him) is one of the Editors-in-Chief of The Oxford Blue for the winter vacation and Hilary 2021. Oliver is from Warwickshire and is in his final year studying History at Merton College.