The European Union (EU) has approved the use of AstraZeneca’s ( COVID-19 vaccine as a third dose booster in adults.

According to the approval by the European Medicine Agency (EMA), healthcare professionals can now use AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a third dose booster in patients previously given a primary vaccine schedule of either AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine or an EU-approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

The authorisation is based on a review by the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the substantial body of evidence demonstrating an increased immune response after a third dose booster with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine following a primary vaccine schedule of either AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine or an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Although more than 65% of the global population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, there remains a significant challenge to ensure people receive both their primary vaccine schedule and third dose booster, and healthcare professionals now have greater flexibility in their choice of vaccine.

Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca said: “Today’s marketing authorisation for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as a third dose booster is an important step towards our goal of providing continued protection against COVID-19 for all populations. Ensuring a longer duration of immune protection is essential to the long-term management of COVID-19 globally, and boosters can address the waning of protection over time that has been seen with all primary vaccine schedules to date.”

There is a substantial body of evidence supporting AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a third dose booster following all primary vaccination schedules tested to date including AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA vaccines, and CoronaVac.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is already authorised as a homologous booster (patients previously given a primary vaccine schedule of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine) in the UK, and several countries in Asia and Latin America.

It has also been authorised as a heterologous booster (patients previously given a primary vaccine schedule of either a viral vector vaccine other than AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine or an inactivated vaccine or an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine) in a number of non-EU countries.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is estimated to have helped prevent 50 million COVID-19 cases, five million hospitalisations, and saved more than one million lives worldwide, based on model outcomes assessing COVID-19 worldwide, according to statistics.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine (ChAdOx1-S [Recombinant], formerly AZD1222) was invented by the University of Oxford. The vaccine is a ‘viral vector’ vaccine, which means a version of a virus that cannot cause disease is used as part of the vaccine, leaving the body knowing how to fight it if it is exposed to the real virus later.

This vaccine technology has been used by scientists over the past 40 years to fight other infectious diseases such as the flu, Ebola, and HIV.

The vaccine has been granted a conditional marketing authorisation or emergency use in more than 125 countries. It also has Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization, which accelerates the pathway to access in up to 144 countries through the COVAX Facility.