A big update in vaccination efforts from across the pond: In what Prime Minister Boris Johnson is calling a "triumph for British science," regulators in the United Kingdom have given the green light to a second vaccine there, this time for one from AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Why this vaccine is especially encouraging, per NBC News: It doesn't cost as much to make, and it can be stored for at least six months at normal refrigeration temperatures, not the subzero temps required by the Pfizer and Moderna versions. CNN notes Britain is the first nation to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that the country is switching up its strategy for administering it and the Pfizer version, which is also approved there. More patients will receive an initial dose—which has been shown to offer some protection on its own—and wait slightly longer to receive their second inoculation.
That second round of shots will still be offered within 12 weeks of the first to offer longer-term protection. "With two vaccines now approved, we will be able to vaccinate a greater number of people who are at highest risk, protecting them from the disease and reducing mortality and hospitalization," the UK's health system says in a statement. A UK government scientific adviser tells CNN that vaccine trial research showed that first dose alone cut down on the severity of COVID-19 and spurred a "very good immune response" in older, frailer subjects. AstraZeneca's vaccine, which UK health officials say will start to be doled out next week, showed 62% efficacy in clinical trials with the double-dose regimen, which could pose a challenge when it comes to convincing patients to take this vaccine over the seemingly more effective Pfizer and Moderna versions, per the New York Times. The news comes just as the UK broke its daily COVID record Tuesday, registering more than 53,000 new cases. (Read more AstraZeneca stories.)