A landmark moment: Irish professor hails approval of new weapon in Covid-19 fight

The Dublin-born professor who has been leading the development team behind the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Oxford University has hailed a “landmark moment” after it was officially approved for use in the UK.

rofessor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford, said all those who had worked long hours on the vaccine are delighted to have reached this point so quickly.

“For the past 25 years, staff at the Jenner Institute have worked to develop vaccines using novel technologies to protect people around the world from diseases that claim many lives each year,” he said.

“The work builds on many years of research by a dedicated team of vaccinologists, and we are delighted to see the first emergency-use licensure.”

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, added: “The regulator’s assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment, and an endorsement of the huge effort from a devoted international team of researchers and our dedicated trial participants.

“Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon as possible.”

Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford, added: “This is a day for the team developing the vaccine to celebrate, after a year of extremely hard work under difficult circumstances. Now that the first authorisation of use of the vaccine outside of clinical trials has been granted, we still have more to do and will continue to provide more data to multiple regulatory authorities, until we are able to see the vaccine being used to save lives around the world.”

Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the approval, which will lead to a huge expansion in the UK’s immunisation campaign, and confirmed 50,000 doses were already in Northern Ireland.

“I want people to be hopeful,” he said. “I want people to look forward to 2021 but I also want people to remain cautious.”

First Minister Arlene Foster said she was delighted with the vaccine progress. “Delighted with Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine progress,” said Mrs Foster. “The world class strength and brilliance of UK scientists means our wider vaccination programme should start across Northern Ireland next week.”

DUP South Antrim MLA Pam Cameron said the news was “a tremendous boost for Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom in our fight against this disease”.

Mrs Cameron, who is also the vice-chair of the Stormont Health Committee, added: “This vaccine is significantly easier to store and transport which will enable a more rapid vaccination roll out.”

Meanwhile, 33,683 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered to care home residents and front-line health staff in Northern Ireland.

Vaccinations have been carried out in 80% of care homes.

The Department of Health said that of those who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 8,940 are care home residents, 10,484 are care home staff and 14,259 are front-line health and social care staff.

Belfast Telegraph

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