The boss of the firm behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has raised hopes it is more effective than first thought amid the spread of a new strain of the virus.
AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot told the Sunday Times he believed researchers had found the “winning formula” using two doses and promised to publish the results as reports suggested the UK regulator could approve the jab within days.
The claim will come as some relief as Canada became the latest country to identify cases of the new highly infectious variant of coronavirus, which was first detected in the UK and has since spread to at least a dozen countries.
By December 20, a total of 56,676 people in Scotland had received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, including care home residents and staff and patient-facing NHS staff.
Just before Christmas, health secretary Jeane Freeman told the Scottish Parliament GPs could start vaccinating people over 80 from January 11 if the Oxford vaccine is approved by the end of the year.
Cases of the variant strain have been confirmed across Europe including in France, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as around the globe in Australia, Japan and Lebanon.
Concerns around the strain has led to the whole of mainland Scotland moving into level four restrictions – similar to the full lockdown implemented in March.
Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants are shut except for takeaways, drive-throughs and deliveries.
Only essential travel is allowed after the restrictions came into effect on Boxing Day.
The level four rules – affecting mainland Scotland and Skye – are in place for at least three weeks and the lockdown will be reviewed after a fortnight.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Boxing Day: “Please stay home/local as much as possible, to help stop this new, faster spreading strain of the virus running out of control.”