With coronavirus cases continuing to climb throughout the UK thanks to a more infectious new strain, Britain's health regulator has approved a second COVID-19 vaccine.

On Wednesday, the UK government announced that the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved for safe use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, BBC reports. The vaccine, which is the second to be approved in the country, is expected to start rolling out from Jan. 4 onwards. The first vaccine, from Pfizer and BioNTech, was approved in the UK near the start of December.

"This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness," the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement. So far, the country has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, which will go towards vaccinating 50 million of the UK's population of 67 million. Unlike the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine which needs to be stored at -70c, the new jab can be stored in the fridge.

"This wonderful news brings renewed hope at a time of rising infections and unprecedented pressure on health services in the UK and beyond. It is now critical that this hope can be shared by all nations," added Anna Marriot of the Oxfam aid agency. PM Boris Johnson shared the news of the vaccine's approval on Twitter, calling it "fantastic news" and "a triumph for British science." He added, "We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible."

On Tuesday, the UK reported 53,000 new cases of COVID-19, which is the biggest daily case count since the pandemic started. Hospitals across the country are struggling to keep up with the influx of new cases, with much of the country plunging into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

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