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AstraZeneca's Covid Vaccine Set for Approval in U.K. as New Strain Spreads

The UK could approve the Covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford as early as Tuesday.

U.S. listed shares of AstraZeneca  (AZN) - Get Astrazeneca PLC Sponsored ADR Report were rising Monday after media reports suggested that its coronavirus vaccine, being developed with the University of Oxford, could be approved some time this week.

The U.K.'s medical regulator is currently reviewing the final data from the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford phase 3 clinical trials, the Financial Times reported.

The stock of the British drugmaker traded higher Monday morning at $49.67, up 2.33% at last check.

The AstraZeneca vaccine could facilitate a rapid ramp-up of vaccinations because it’s easier to transport and store than vaccines from Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report and Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report which need to be kept extremely cold at minus 70 degrees Celsius and minus 25 degrees Celcius, respectively. AstraZeneca's vaccine's low price and ease of storage will allow the U.K. government to vaccinate people more quickly.

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Government officials said the U.K. regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, could approve the vaccine as soon as Tuesday, the FT report added.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said Sunday that researchers believe the shot from the British drugmaker will be effective against a new variant of the virus that has rapidly pushed infection rates higher in Britain. Earlier this month, the U.K. reported the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus that is said to be substantially more transmissible than previous variants. Early studies of the new strain, labelled B.1.1.7, suggest it could be 71% more transmissible, the FT cited, leading to stricter restrictions and more lockdowns in the country.

Health officials in Britain approved the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get BioNTech SE Report on Dec. 2, becoming the first Western country to carry out mass inoculations against the coronavirus.

More than 600,000 people have been vaccinated in the U.K. according to the FT report.