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Roger Shaw, 87, receives a COVID-19 vaccination record card from a nurse in London, having received a shot of the Pfizer vaccine. December 8, 2020 Jack Hill/Pool via REUTERS
- The UK has become the first country to approve the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
- 83-year-old Brian Pinker —a patient with kidney failure — was the first in the world to get the shot, outside of a trial.
- The UK government has promised 100 million doses, with 530,000 doses available to give to people on Monday, with "tens of millions" of doses expected to be available by March 31 according to the Department of Health.
- The six hospital trusts to get the vaccine initially are in Oxford, London, Sussex, Lancashire and Warwickshire.
- Vulnerable patients, healthcare workers, and care home residents will be prioritized.
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The UK is the first country in the world to give people the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca outside of a trial. There are 530,000 doses ready to give to people on Monday, and "tens of millions" will be available by March 31 according to the Department of Health.
The UK government has secured 100 million doses overall. The six hospital trusts to get the vaccine initially are in London, Sussex, Lancashire and Warwickshire. Eighty three year-old dialysis patient Brian Pinker was the first person to receive his shot in Oxford. The Oxford professor who pioneered the vaccine, Andrew Pollard, has also been immunized.
The vaccine aims to protect people against getting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus that has killed over 1.8 million people worldwide.
The Oxford vaccine was approved by regulators on Wednesday, as the number of Brits infected with coronavirus surges, possibly due to a more infectious variant of the virus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted at "tougher measures" on Sunday, and heated debates rage on about the best restrictions to put in place to curb its spread, including whether to close schools.
Britain has the highest death toll in Europe and the sixth highest in the world, with over 75,000 fatalities so far, while the highest rate is in the US, where over 351,000 have died from the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
A successful vaccination program will hopefully provide a route out of lockdowns and other restrictions on everyday life that are aimed at curbing the deadly virus' spread. The priority is to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's chief executive, told BBC Radio 4' Today programme on December 30 that the pharma giant could provide 2 million doses each week.
The plan is to immunize people at more than 750 vaccination sites across the UK. Vulnerable people, care home residents and healthcare worker will be prioritized, as recommended by the government advisory body, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
It will first be rolled out by hospitals, followed by family doctor clinics later this week. The Department of Health said it expected up to 100 more hospital sites will be vaccinating people by the end of this week, subject to "final assurance checks", as well as 180 family doctor-led services.
Oxford's vaccine is the second that Brits can receive. More than a million people in the UK have already had a shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, according to a Department of Health press release. There are 66 million people in the UK, and both vaccines require 2 doses. There is currently debate as to how best administer the two doses, for example whether to give one shot instead of two to immunize more people.
In a statement published on Sunday, the UK's independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) endorsed the UK government's plan to give more people their first shot, and make other's wait for their second. They said that the decision was a "very difficult and finely balanced decision." The British Medical Associaton, the trade union that represents UK doctors, said in a press release on December 31, that delaying the second dose of the Pfizer shot is "grossly unfair".
The Oxford vaccine is easier to store and distribute than Pfizer's because it requires a normal fridge, instead of ultra-cold temperatures, for example.
It's not clear when the vaccine will be given out to 2 million people per day. Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Monday, Steven Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said "certainly this month we will be able to get up to that sort of number but that would depend on supplies."
When asked by Business Insider on Monday, the Department of Health did not say whether or not they anticipate any shortages of Oxford's vaccine.
However, they said there are sufficient doses of Pfizer's vaccine to maintain the vaccination program as it continues to accelerate, and are working closely with Pfizer to ensure vaccines keep arriving into the UK.
In the meantime, the government urges people to comply with restrictions.
"While the most vulnerable are immunized, I urge everybody to continue following the restrictions so we can keep cases down and protect our loved," health secretary Matt Hancock in a statement on Monday.