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Coronavirus update: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for UK usage – how it works

Accepting the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the British government has authorised the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for use. This means it has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, December 30, was former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Mrs Smith said the additional vaccine approval provided “a little bit of hope” in getting through the pandemic.

The Department of Health and Social Care declared the vaccine has undergone “rigorous trials” to get to this point.

The body’s natural defence system produces antibodies in response to the antigen.

This can take time when the human body is exposed to an antigen for the first time – meanwhile, the person is susceptible to becoming ill.

Once the body produces antibodies in its response to an antigen, “antibody-producing memory cells” are also created.

These “remain alive” even after the pathogen is defeated by antibodies, meaning the immune response is “much faster” and “more effective” in facing the same pathogen, should it encounter it again.

This is where vaccines become useful in bolstering a person’s immune system response.

Either containing weakened, inactive or blueprints for antigens, the vaccine prompts the body’s natural immune response to produce specific antibodies.

The WHO said: “A vaccine is a tiny, weakened non-dangerous fragment of the organism and includes part of the antigen.

“It’s enough that our body can learn to build the specific antibody. Then if the body encounters the real antigen later, as part of the real organism, it already knows how to defeat it.”

Herd immunity
When enough people in the community are vaccinated, herd immunity can emerge.

This is when the pathogen – such as SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the coronavirus disease) – finds it difficult to circulate in a population.

Herd immunity provides “substantial protection” to those who are unable to be vaccinated.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be rolled out from January 4, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed today.


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