UK's approval may soon be followed by other countries, including India, though the European Union and the U.S. are not expected to act on the vaccine anytime soon.
Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw said: "The approval of the Oxford vaccine and further ongoing indications of the significant benefit provided by a single dose mean that it is right for Northern Ireland to shift strategy to ensuring as many people get an initial dose as quickly as possible". The UK has 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, codenamed AZD1222, on order and the roll out will begin on January 4.
"While this vaccine may not have the same logistical hurdles as those associated with the Pfizer jab, the task of vaccinating such large numbers of patients in a short space of time is a huge challenge".
The Fernandez administration has said it intends to purchase 51 million vaccine doses in total. In addition, health officials earlier this month identified a new, possibly more easily spread version of the virus.
The vaccine developed by the drugmaker and Oxford University could hold great appeal in less developed parts of the world because of its low cost and the fact that it can be kept in refrigerators rather than at the ultra-cold or freezer temperatures some other vaccines require.
"Today's news means that everyone who wants one can get a vaccine", Hancock added during a Wednesday interview, noting that AstraZeneca is set to distribute more doses in February.
A test tube labelled with the Vaccine is seen in front of an AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken, September 9, 2020.
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock told morning viewers in the United Kingdom that immunity from COVID comes two weeks after just one dose of the vaccine, which can be stored at refrigerator temperatures rather than a deep freeze like the other vaccines.
Two full doses were given to the majority of participants and were shown to be 62% efficacious - but a smaller group of volunteers received by accident half a dose followed by a full dose, and registered 90% efficacy.
"It is a life saver", Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said in a phone interview.
The vaccine was developed using more traditional methods as opposed to the mRNA technology platform that was used for both Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines.
However, questions remain about how well the vaccine protects older people.
AstraZeneca did not specify which dose regime had been approved, but researchers said approval was the most important thing.