AstraZeneca hero criticises frustrating vaccine hesitancy after EU denounced Oxford jab

Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines approved for booster scheme

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The development of the AstraZeneca vaccine was nothing short of miraculous, with Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert leading the Vaccitech team out of the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute. Within two weeks of hearing about the SARS-CoV-2 virus rampaging through China early in 2020, Dame Sarah had managed to design an effective vaccine to fight the new threat. Approval for the Covid jab followed less than a year later and since late January 2021, nearly 70 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab have been administered across the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA).

Health officials have stressed vaccines offer the quickest route out of the pandemic but many people remain hesitant about the jab’s safety.

The vaccine hesitancy has led Dame Sarah to pen the book Vaxxers in partnership with Dr Cath Green, associate professor at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the vaccine hero has expressed her frustrations concerning people’s mistrust towards the rapid process that procured the Covid jab.

Dame Sarah said: “We were able to overlap processes that you would normally do sequentially.

“We had less waiting to do between elements of work. But we still followed the normal regulatory pathway.

“Yes, we did it quickly, but we didn’t miss any steps out.

“It is frustrating when people say development was too fast without saying why that would be.”

With the coronavirus rapidly crossing borders and infecting tens of millions of people, many of the bureaucratic processes that bogged down vaccine development in the past were thrown out the window.

Vaccine developers were still held up to a high standard and had to clear all the regulatory hurdles before their products were approved for human use – but they were allowed to do so at a much faster pace than normal.

The streamlined process allowed the Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines to be approved in late 2020 to early 2021.

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The scientists were also aided by Chinese researchers publishing in January 2020 the fully sequenced genetic code of SARS-CoV-2.

Here in the UK, more than 43 million people have already received the second dose of the Covid vaccine, accounting for more than 60 percent of the UK’s population.

Data published by the Government show vaccine uptake peaked between April and May this year, with the number of vaccinated gradually declining since.

Pollsters have, however, noticed a positive trend in the first half of 2021, with people from all parts of Britain becoming less likely to report vaccine hesitancy.

According to data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), London remains a stronghold of vaccine hesitancy among the British nations.

Hesitancy towards the jab was likely not aided by the EU’s embittered row with the UK-Swedish drug-maker over a shortfall in vaccines earlier this year.

The row led to the European Commission launching legal action in April, claiming AstraZeneca had failed to meet the terms of its contract with the EU.

Earlier this summer, the Court of First Instance of Brussels granted interim measures in a legal case against AstraZeneca by the European Commission and the EU’s 27 member states.

The court ordered the vaccine manufacturer to deliver 50 million doses of the vaccine to the EU by September 27.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “This decision confirms the position of the Commission: AstraZeneca did not live up to the commitments it made in the contract.

“It is good to see that an independent judge confirms this.”

The EU and AstraZeneca have since reached a settlement, with AstraZeneca pledging to deliver the remaining Covid jabs.

The deal also ended the litigation pending in Brussels.

Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said last week: “Today we reached a settlement agreement with @AstraZeneca.

“This includes a binding commitment to deliver all #COVID19 vaccines under our contract.

“We are pleased to have found a mutually satisfactory solution that benefits [EU] citizens and [world] citizens via our COVAX commitment.”

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