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Oxford / AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine set for rollout across Scotland as jab is approved for use in the UK

© John Cairns/University of Oxford/PA WireA vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University
A vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University

The Oxford / AstraZeneca Covid vaccine will be deployed in Scotland within the next couple of weeks after it was approved for use in the UK.

The jab, which has been described as a “game changer”, was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) amid a rise in coronavirus cases across the country.

Interim deputy chief medical officer for Scotland Dave Caesar described the vaccine approval as “another really positive step towards our way out of the pandemic that we’ve all been experiencing”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: “It’s really important that we keep those restrictions in place, especially over the next few weeks as we roll out this vaccine which will give us an opportunity to find our way out of the pandemic.

“But it is still a case of holding the line in terms of what we need to do until we get that vaccine out to all the people that are are needing it as soon as possible.”

He added: “There are still some details to work out that we’ll hear more about through today – it was only approved late last night – and some of those details will then define exactly the timing of some of those first days.

“But we’re expecting to be able to administer this in the next week or two, so really quickly from approval to administration.

“We’ve got an army of folks who are standing by to both get the appropriate training, which is really important in delivering a new treatment, and then we are ready to deploy this vaccine across Scotland, as I said, in the next couple of weeks and really start ramping up that delivery very soon.”

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said the company will be able to ramp up production of the coronavirus vaccine “very rapidly”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it will be able to deliver up to two million doses a week.

“We are aligning our delivery schedule with the Government so we can progressively ramp up the vaccination programme,” he said.

“We are going to start doing this and ramp up the deliveries over the next two to three weeks. We are going to be able to do that very rapidly in the first and second week of January.

“We will start delivering this week – maybe today or tomorrow we will be shipping our first doses.

“The vaccination will start next week and we will get to one million a week and beyond that very rapidly.

“We can go to two million. In January we will already possibly be vaccinating several million people and by the end of the first quarter we are going to be in the tens of millions already.”

During the Oxford vaccine trial, the half-dose followed by a full-dose regime came about as a result of an accident.

However, the MHRA was made aware of what happened and clinical trials for the vaccine were allowed to continue.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the vaccine approval is “good news”, tweeting: “Now let’s go hell for leather to get jabs rolled out.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Much needed good news on the Covid front – and it is very good news.

“We’ve still got some difficult winter weeks ahead – but the light at the end of the tunnel just got a lot brighter.

“Let’s stick with it now – spring will bring better times.”

The Oxford vaccine can be stored in a standard fridge, unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which needs cold storage of around minus 70C.

This means the Oxford vaccine is easier to roll out to places such as care homes and GP surgeries.