UK becomes the first country to roll out AstraZeneca vaccine

Britain begins vaccinating its population on Monday with the COVID-19 shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, touting its position as the first Western country to roll out an inoculation programme against the coronavirus, Reuters reported.

Britain, which is rushing to vaccinate its population faster than the United States and the rest of Europe in a bid to put the pandemic behind it, is the first country to roll out the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot.

India approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday for emergency use.

Last year Britain rolled out the Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech vaccine. The country has put more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccines into arms already - more than the rest of Europe put together, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, adding that the roll out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was a triumph. “That’s a triumph of British science that we’ve managed to get where we are,” Hancock told Sky.

PM Boris Johnson’s government has secured 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine which can be stored at fridge temperatures between two to eight degrees, making it easier to distribute than the Pfizer shot.

Six hospitals in England will administer the first of around 530,000 doses Britain has ready. The programme will be expanded to hundreds of other British sites in the coming days, and the government hopes it will deliver tens of millions of doses within months.

Cases of COVID-19 in Britain have risen sharply in recent weeks, fuelled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus. On Sunday there were nearly 55,000 new cases and in total more than 75,000 people in the country have died with COVID-19 during the pandemic - the second highest toll in Europe.

Johnson said on Sunday that tougher restrictions were likely to be introduced, even with millions of citizens already living under the strictest tier of rules.

Asked whether the government was considering imposing a new national lockdown, Hancock said: “We don’t rule anything out.”

The spread of the variant virus has also forced the government to change its approach to vaccination. Britain is now prioritising getting a first dose of a vaccine to as many people as possible over giving second doses. Delaying the distribution of second shots should help stretch the supply. The change of strategy has drawn criticism from some British doctors.

 

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