COVID-19: First doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to be given today

The first doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine will be administered in the UK today in what the government has described as a “pivotal moment” in the fight against coronavirus.

Some 530,000 doses will available, initially at six hospital trusts – Oxford, Sussex, Lancashire, Warwickshire, and two in London.

The bulk of the supplies will then be sent to more than 700 GP-led services and care homes.

The government hopes it will deliver tens of millions of doses within months, with the reported goal of administering two million per week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus and I hope it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight.”

So far, around one million people in the UK have received the other approved vaccine, which is produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, however, is cheaper and easier to store and transport.

The spread of the new more transmissible variant has forced the government to prioritise giving the first dose of the vaccine to as many people as possible, rather than concentrating on giving a smaller group of people the full two doses first.

But challenges remain in rolling out the vaccination and reaching the government’s target of vaccinations per week.

The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed health source as saying that people should not expect huge numbers overnight.

They added: “We have never said we will do two million jabs a week. We have to manage expectations. You cannot vaccinate two million people a week from nothing. People will be underwhelmed by the figures if expectation is set too high.”

The one million doses administered so far are equivalent to around 250,000 doses being given each week.

There have been reports that vaccination centres are subject to a postcode lottery, with some people living many miles from their closest centre.

There are also reports that there may be shortages of vaccine doses, people to administer them, and critical materials such as the glass used to make vials.

Rochdale and Bury LMCs chair Dr Mohammed Jiva told Sky News that his area had the capacity to vaccinate 8,000 people per week but was only receiving enough vaccine doses for 3,000 people.

Talking about his experience of administering the Pfizer vaccine, he added: “It has been pretty slow in terms of the stuff we need from the government.

“The demand from the public has been high but unfortunately we’ve not had enough vaccines to meet the needs of the local population.

“It’s a supply issue, not only of the vaccine but the other consumables that go with it. In the first batch, there wasn’t enough saline to mix with the vaccine and we didn’t have enough syringes and needles.”

It comes as another 54,990 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the UK – the sixth day in a row that new daily cases have exceeded 50,000.

A further 454 people have died with coronavirus, government figures show.

It takes the total number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test in the UK to 75,024.

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