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The United Kingdom applied AstraZeneca’s preventive therapy against COVID-19

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By Pushkala Aripaka

March 17 (Reuters) – The UK medicines regulator has unveiled AstraZeneca’s treatment against COVID-19, based on evidence to prevent infections in adults with a poor immune response, marking an important step in the fight against the pandemic, at a time when contagions have been felt all over the world.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency announced on Thursday the decision to approve the treatment, Evusheld, with the backing of the government’s independent scientific advisory body.

The World Health Organization said this week that figures showing a global rise in COVID-19 cases could herald a much bigger problem and has warned countries to remain vigilant.

Although 85% of Britons over the age of 12 have been vaccinated with two doses, some people who are immunocompromised or have a history of serious adverse reactions to a vaccine may need an alternative prevention option.

“Although vaccines … remain the first line of defense against COVID-19, we know that some people may not respond adequately to these vaccines,” said June Raine, head of the Agency.

Vaccines rely on an intact immune system to develop specific tests and cells to fight infection, but Evusheld contains laboratory-made tests designed to remain in the body for months to contain the virus in case of infection.

According to the Agency, the strategy reduces the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by 77%, with protection lasting at least six months after a single dose.

Evusheld has also been shown to save lives and prevent disease progression when given within the first week of symptoms.

The UK and AstraZeneca do not currently have an agreement to supply Evusheld.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said it hopes the therapy will be available to Britons “as soon as possible.”

Evusheld is under review in Europe and has been approved in the United States to prevent COVID-19 infections in people with weakened immune systems or a history of serious side effects from coronavirus vaccines.

The Agency said the treatment, given as an intramuscular injection, should not be given to people who are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, or who have recently had someone with the virus.

However, the regulator has warned that there was not enough data to fully assess the efficacy of Evusheld against the highly contagious VARIANT omicron, adding that it is in contact with AstraZeneca on this matter.

In December, AstraZeneca said that a laboratory study had found the treatment to have neutralizing activity against omicron.

Eli Lilly, Regeneron and GSK are other drugmakers working on evidence-based therapies for COVID-19.

(Reporting from Pushkala Aripaka in Bangalore; edited in Spanish by Benjamín Mejías Valencia)

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