UK will offer 15 million people Covid shots by mid-February

Britain will have offered Covid-19 vaccines to those in the top four priority categories - about 15 million people - by the middle of next month, Nadhim Zahawi, British minister responsible for vaccination programme said on Monday. “The vaccinations are really beginning to ramp up, 200,000 a day, we’ve done an incredible job this past week,” Zahawi told Sky News, saying they would offer shots to those in the highest risk levels, the eldest and frontline health workers, by the middle of February.

Some 2 million people had already received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday. He announced that seven mass vaccination centres will open this week, supplementing almost 1,000 doctors surgeries and hospitals offering shots. Every UK resident over the age of 18 will be offered a Covid vaccine by autumn, Hancock said.

In a bid to speed up vaccinations, the British government has changed its vaccine guidelines to allow a second dose of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to be administered up to 12 weeks after the first, instead of three weeks as originally planned.

However, Pfizer scientists have warned governments not to be overly confident that one dose would offer enough protection in the long term, saying there is “no data” showing that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days.

A highly transmissible new variant of the virus is surging around Britain and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed a third national lockdown in England to try to stem the pandemic before the most vulnerable are immunised. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have imposed similar measures.


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