WATCH: UK hails ‘significant moment’ as Oxford COVID-19 vaccine gets green light
AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shares were among the leaders on the FTSE (^FTSE) in early trading on Wednesday as Britain became the first country to approve the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use. Markets welcomed the news, boosting the share price as nations continue to struggle to contain case numbers, hampered further by new, highly contagious variants first found in the UK.
The stock continued its winning streak from Tuesday, heading higher as overall market sentiment improved in the wake of a Brexit deal being secured last week. At around 8.40am in London, shares gained 0.2%, but were as high as 3.3% at the start of the trading day.
“This is certainly good news because there is no doubt that the current coronavirus vaccine demand is nowhere close enough to supply,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade.
“Another major company getting its vaccine approved by the lawmakers will further improve the coronavirus situation as the number of Covid cases are ticking higher over in Europe and in the US.”
The UK government said the decision to approve the vaccine follows rigorous testing, with 100 million initially ordered for the first phase of the immunisation programme, and another 40 million due to be rolled out by March next year.
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Markets were already anticipating news of the vaccine’s approval on Tuesday, partly pushing shares higher on Tuesday. The day prior, the company had also announced a major coup for its cancer drug Lynparza, which had been approved in Japan for the treatment of advanced ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers, following Phase III trials.
Approving the AstraZeneca (AZN.L)-Oxford vaccine could be a major gamechanger in helping the UK fight the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to lifting the stringent social distancing requirements that have been put in place in various parts of the country.
One of the UK’s highly contagious coronavirus variants that was announced earlier in December has now also been linked to cases in the US, and is 56% more transmissible than previous variants.