UK Health Authorities Approve AstraZeneca/Oxford University Coronavirus Vaccine

Britain's health authorities approved the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University Wednesday as global infections neared 82 million and a new variant continues to spread in countries around the world.
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AstraZeneca Plc  (AZN) - Get Report received approval for U.K. health authorities for its coronavirus vaccine, developed with Oxford University, Wednesday as governments around the world scramble to contain a new variant of the deadly respiratory illness.

Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency allowed for authorization of an emergency supply of the vaccine, known as AZD1222, which reached a 90% efficacy rate under certain conditions in late-stage trials concluded in late November. The government also said it had ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling it a "triumph for British science". 

AstraZeneca's vaccine joins approvals in the U.S. and Europe for those produced by Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Report and BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get Report and Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Report, each of which were granted Emergency Use Authorization from the Food & Drug Administration in early December. 

“This is a moment to celebrate British innovation - not only are we responsible for discovering the first treatment to reduce mortality for Covid-19, this vaccine will be made available to some of the poorest regions of the world at a low cost, helping protect countless people from this awful disease," said Matt Hancock, Britain's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. 

"It is a tribute to the incredible UK scientists at Oxford University and AstraZeneca whose breakthrough will help to save lives around the world," he added. "I want to thank every single person who has been part of this British success story. While it is a time to be hopeful, it is so vital everyone continues to play their part to drive down infections.”

AstraZeneca's U.S.-listed shares were marked 2.05% higher in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $50.92 each, while Pfizer rose 0.4% to $37.20 each. Moderna shares jumped 3.64% to $118.55 each.

Global coronavirus infections were tabbed at just under 82 million as of today, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, with the virus taking 1.8 million lives since it was first identified in the central industrial Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.  

AstraZeneca said on November 23 that the average efficacy rate of the three dosage variants of AZD1222 was around 70%, a much lower result than that achieved by Pfizer and Moderna's messenger-RNA based techniques, but noted it can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated conditions.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford University trial included around 23,000 participants, the company said, and resulted in around 131 infections.

The 90% efficacy rate was observed in cohorts given a half dose, and then a full dose four weeks later, the study indicated. Curiously, the lower 62% efficacy rate was observed in participants given two full doses. The average rate across both dosing regimes was 70%, the company said.