However, national regulators do still have the final decision. And the national contexts in which they operate have a major impact on those decisions: for example, in this case, how serious the Covid-19 outbreak has been, and continues to be, in their countries. 

“Each national regulatory agency may still come to different conclusions – which is normal – because each must make their own benefit/risk assessment,” said Dr Nick Jackson, head of programmes and technology at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi).

He told the Telegraph that differences between demographics, the current Covid-19 situation and varying at-risk groups would influence the decision, although he expected similar results from different regulators in the longer term.

Australia and Asia watch and wait

The Australian government was adamant that the UK decision would not shift its own timeline to approve a vaccine by the end of January and a roll-out later in 2021. 

Speaking ahead of the news of the decision, the head of the Australian regulator, Professor John Skerritt, told the ABC that the UK and US were on a different timeline because of their dire coronavirus situations. 

“They’re not approvals that those two countries are talking about, they’re emergency use authorisations, and they’re really reflecting the desperate situation of those countries,” he said. “We have to remember on many days, day after day the US is having more deaths than we’ve had in the whole year of the pandemic here in Australia.” 

Dale Fisher, professor of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore said countries where the pandemic is under control had the luxury of pausing to watch what happened on the other side of the world to learn, for example, about whether immunity lasts.

“I wouldn’t say they [the UK, US and Europe] are a test case – they may be used as a test case but that’s not out of design, it’s out of desperation. These countries need a vaccine more urgently,” he said. 

“I would never have believed that these countries, among the most developed in the world, would be the ones that are the most needy. But that’s the truth.” 

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