UK approves use of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine

The UK approved the use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Wednesday (December 30), paving the way for a serious ramping up of the country's immunisation programme.

Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, which is easier to store and distribute than several of its rivals.

For many the news couldn't come soon enough, as Britain battles a major winter surge of coronavirus infections driven in part by a new, more infectious variant of the virus.

On Tuesday, more than 53,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported - the highest number since mass testing began in mid-2020.

It's pushed the government to be on the verge of introducing tougher lockdown measures.

A report in the Times on Wednesday suggests millions more people will be placed under stay-at-home orders.

The paper reported that hospitals in London are running out of intensive care beds and are drawing up plans to send patients to other parts of the country.

There remains a debate about whether children should go back to school in January.

Britain is the first country in the world to approve the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.

Health Minister Matt Hancock said it was a moment to celebrate British innovation, and a time to be hopeful.

He said the UK could now see its route out of the pandemic.

The regulatory approval is a boost for Astrazeneca and Oxford, which have been accused of a lack of clarity about the results from late-stage trials.