The head of the firm behind the new Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has said researchers have found a “winning formula” with their two-dose system.
AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot told The Sunday Times he is convinced that subsequent data from the trial of the vaccine will show it has achieved an efficacy equal to Pfizer/BioNTech at 95 per cent and Moderna at 94.5 per cent.
“We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else,” he said, adding: “I can’t tell you more because we will publish at some point.”
Mr Soriot’s comments are likely to raise hopes for the vaccine as reports suggest the UK regulator could see the jab approved within days.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has praised vaccination efforts so far, telling the Mail on Sunday: “There will be tough days and months ahead, but there are reasons to look ahead to a brighter future and what 2021 promises.
“The early roll-out of vaccines – and the incredible work of our scientists and NHS – means we can now see light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic.”
On Christmas Eve, the Department of Health and Social Care said more than 600,000 people had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Press Association.
So far, however, the rollout in care homes had been limited to seven areas.
The rollout of vaccines comes as a new variant of coronavirus continues to be blamed for soaring rates of cases across the country.
Cases of the variant have been confirmed across Europe including in France, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands, as well as around the globe in Australia, Japan and Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Dr Barbara Yaffe, the associate chief medical officer of Canada’s Ontario province, said the first two confirmed cases were identified in a couple from the country’s Durham region with no known travel history.
In the UK, new lockdown measures came into effect on Boxing Day in an effort to reduce the spread of the new variant and bring down coronavirus case numbers in general.
More than six million people in east and southeast England went into the highest level of restrictions under the new measures.
Areas that moved to tier 4 include Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, parts of Essex not already in the highest tier, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire, except for the New Forest.
The tier 4 restrictions ask that residents stay home and enforce a limit on household mixing to two people outdoors. Under the rules, many shops will also be closed.
Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading – here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don’t go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn’t available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.