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4 Jan, 2021 10:59

UK starts rollout of AstraZeneca’s Covid jab in world first but health sec warns supply problems are slowing vax programme

UK starts rollout of AstraZeneca’s Covid jab in world first but health sec warns supply problems are slowing vax programme

The UK has become the first country to immunise people against Covid-19 using AstraZeneca’s long-awaited vaccine, but the health secretary has warned that vaccination capacity is being undermined by supply challenges.

On Monday, an 82-year-old man became the first person in the world to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine outside of trial conditions after it was approved for use in the UK last Wednesday. 

Around 53,000 doses will be administered at six hospitals in Lancashire, London, Oxford, Sussex and Warwickshire, before the bulk of the UK’s AstraZeneca supplies will be shipped to 700 doctor surgeries and care homes.  

The AstraZeneca jab is the second vaccine in use in the UK after a grandmother-of-four received the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine almost one month ago.  

Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, described the event as “another turning point in our way out of this pandemic.” 

Powis said the NHS has been preparing for the biggest vaccination programme in its history for many months.  

“We’ve already delivered over a million vaccines of the Pfizer jab; now we’ve got the AstraZeneca one, so we aim to get it into people’s arms as quickly as it is supplied to us…our aim is to get two million doses (per week) into the arms of those priority groups,” he added. 

The British government has stated its intention to deliver tens of millions of doses within the coming months, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted that supply problems are hampering the expansion of the programme. 

“It can’t be rolled out even quicker than it’s supplied, that’s the challenge that we have at the moment,” Hancock told Times Radio on Monday. 

With the introduction of the new vaccine, the UK has also changed strategy to favour the administration of a singular dose to as many vulnerable people as possible.  

“It’s a really positive change for the country as a whole and indeed for the world that you can wait until 12 weeks to get the second dose and the signs with the AstraZeneca vaccine are that you get a better protection if you wait that bit longer,” Hancock told Sky News. 

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A study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has urged the government to inoculate as many as two million people each week to avoid a “catastrophic” start to the new year. 

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