U.K. regulator is accelerating reviews of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, according to a report

 marketwatch.com  10/30/2020 19:01:56   Jack Denton

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The U.K. drug regulator is accelerating reviews of the coronavirus vaccines being developed by Pfizer and AstraZeneca, according to a report.

Bloomberg reported on Friday that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency started a rolling review of the vaccine from Pfizer in recent weeks, and has also begun an accelerated review of the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Pfizer PFE, +0.56% and AstraZeneca AZN, -1.39% are at the forefront of the global race to find a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which has grown to become a pandemic over the course of this year. Shares in both companies ticked up following the report.

Rolling reviews, such as the one apparently being undertaken in the case of Pfizers vaccine, are a tool already used by the European Medical Agency (EMA) in fast-tracking drug assessments during public-health emergencies.

This process involves reviewing data on the effectiveness, safety, and quality of candidate drugs as they become available from ongoing studies. Normally, all of that completed data would be submitted at the beginning of the evaluation process.

The report that the U.K. regulator has accelerated reviews of both candidate vaccines comes as the country seeks to safely approve a vaccine as quickly as possible.

European Union legislation requires biotechnological medicines, such as a potential COVID-19 vaccine, to be licensed by the EMA, but after the end of the Brexit transition process in January 2021, the U.K. will have new powers to license all medicines in the country.

Earlier this month, the government said that it could deploy a vaccine before it was licensed by the EMA if there is a compelling case, on public health grounds.

Given the nature of the threat we face, the government said, the joint committee responsible for advice on vaccines may take the very unusual step of advising the U.K. government to use a tested, unlicensed vaccine.

MarketWatch reached out to Pfizer and AstraZeneca for comment.

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