Britain has today begun vaccinating people with the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, was the first to receive the vaccine on Monday morning. Over half a million doses of the vaccine are available to use from today.
Six hospital trusts in England began administering this vaccine on Monday. Hospitals in Oxford, London, Sussex, Lancashire and Warwickshire have 530,000 vaccines ready to use. More vaccines will be sent to GPs and care homes across the country later in the week.
More than a million people have already received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It was the first vaccine approved in the UK, with the first person vaccinated on 8 December last year. In contrast to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford version can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, making it easier to distribute and store, and is also cheaper per dose.
This good news comes as England prepares for more stringent restrictions. Sunday saw over 50,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK for the sixth day running. Northern Ireland and Wales are currently in lockdown, with Scotland also considering further measures.
UK’s vaccination rollout plan
The first people to receive either of the vaccines will be care home residents and staff. Next in line are people aged over 80 and frontline NHS staff. The aim is to have every care home resident vaccinated by the end of January.
Both vaccines require two doses. The UK is planning to accelerate its vaccination rollout by giving both doses of the vaccine 12 weeks apart. Initially, the plan was to leave 21 days between jabs. The decision has received some criticism with the UK’s chief medical officers defending the delay.
The BBC reported the medical officers stating that the initial protection comes from the first vaccine. In a joint statement, they said, “The second vaccine dose is likely to be very important for the duration of protection, and at an appropriate dose interval may further increase vaccine efficacy.”
Pfizer has said it only tested the vaccine with the 21-day delay between the two doses and didn't know how effective it will be if administered 12 weeks apart. However, it has also been reported that one dose gives around 91% protection, with the second dose boosting this to 95%. As such, individuals will still have significant protection from just one dose.
The NHS is aiming to administer two million doses a week in total in the coming months.