The government has asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, bringing the UK a step closer to a possible rollout.
The referral to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) marked “a significant first step” in getting the vaccine “approved for deployment”, the government said.
It follows news that the jab was “highly effective” in advanced trials.
The UK government has pre-ordered 100m doses of the Oxford vaccine.
The government’s latest request to the MHRA comes a week after the regulator was asked to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was working “tirelessly” to be in the “best possible position to deploy a vaccine” as soon as one was approved by the MHRA.
“We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, to understand the data and determine whether it meets rigorous safety standards,” he added.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the UK would be one of the first countries in the world to receive the vaccine, if authorised, with AstraZeneca set to have up to 4m doses ready for the UK by the end of the year and 40m by the end of March 2021.
The government has also ordered 40m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – which preliminary results showed stopped more than 90% of people developing Covid-19 symptoms.
If approved, a vaccine could be rolled out from December, Mr Hancock has said.
On Thursday, AstraZeneca said it was amending its study in the US following the accidental discovery that the vaccine appears to perform best when a half dose is given followed by a full one, rather than two full doses.