Thousands of people are to get Covid-19 vaccine this week as Oxford jab is launched 

Thousands of people will make history today as they receive the first doses of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine in a rollout that boosts Britain’s hopes of escaping the pandemic.

In the biggest UK mass vaccination drive ever, half a million doses will be made available for vulnerable people this week with ‘tens of millions’ promised by April.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed ‘a historic day and a day of celebration’ over the jab created by Oxford University and at drug giant AstraZeneca.

He 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.’

In the biggest UK mass vaccination drive ever, half a million doses will be made available for vulnerable people this week with ‘tens of millions’ promised by April. Pictured: Volunteer is given a dose of the Oxford Covid vaccine

WHERE ARE THE UK’S MASS VACCINATION CENTRES

The UK has approved 40 large-scale vaccination centres. Here is a list of those with finalised locations:

1. Edinburgh International Conference Centre

2. Newcastle, Centre for Life Science Park

3. Southern Trust – South Lake Leisure Centre, Craigavon

4. Northern Trust – Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena

5. Western Trust – Foyle Arena, Londonderry

6. Omagh Leisure Complex, Omagh

7. Lakeside Leisure Forum, Enniskillen

8. St Helens, Totally Wicked Stadium

9. Manchester Tennis & Football Centre

10. Derby Arena

11. Birmingham – Millennium Point and Black Country Living Museum, Dudley

12. Leicester Racecourse

13. Stevenage, Robertson House Conference Centre

14. London Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel Centre

15. Epsom Racecourse, Surrey 16. Bristol, Ashton Gate football stadium

17. Exeter, Sandy Park rugby stadium 

Elderly and infirm people in Oxford, London, Brighton, Morecambe in Lancashire and Nuneaton in Warwickshire are due to be first to receive the jab. 

A total of 530,000 doses will be made available at 540 GP vaccination sites and 101 hospitals this week. 

The NHS has ordered 100million doses which it is hoped will free the country from Covid-19. 

An army of current and former NHS staff have applied to give the jabs, with tens of thousands having already completed their training.

The vaccine is the second to be made available after a million Britons received the Pfizer-BioNTech jab. The Oxford vaccine is easier to use, as it does not require storage at extremely low temperatures.

Yesterday Boris Johnson hailed the UK’s vaccine progress. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘The UK remains the first country to get a stage three approved vaccine into people’s arms. Vaccinating a million people, as we have already, we exceed the whole of the rest of Europe put together.’

He also promised that ‘tens of millions’ of doses will be administered in ‘the next three months’.

A total of 524,439 people already vaccinated are aged 80 and over – around one in five of that age group. 

Supermarket giant Tesco and chemist Boots have offered to help with the rollout of the vaccines. 

Boots is opening three Covid-19 vaccination sites in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester while Tesco will help distribute the Oxford vaccine. 

Mr Johnson has said there will be 530,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at around 540 GP vaccination sites and around 101 hospital sites tomorrow.   

The Ministry of Defence has deployed 10 military planners to assist the Government’s Vaccine Taskforce.

The army will also help on the ground – marking its biggest peacetime operation on British shores. 

Upwards of 5,000 personnel will helping with distribution and testing.

Rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab began almost a month ago. 

But both jabs require second doses which will now take place within 12 weeks rather than 21 days as initially planned to ‘protect the greatest number of people in the shortest time’, health chiefs said.

The Government was yesterday forced to deny claims there was a ‘postcode lottery’ as GPs in some areas have not agreed to deliver the vaccine. 

Official figures show there had been a further 54,990 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, up 80 per cent from last week’s case figure of 30,501, while the number of deaths had increased by 43 per cent from last Sunday to 454

Elderly and infirm people in Oxford, London, Brighton, Morecambe in Lancashire and Nuneaton in Warwickshire are due to be first to receive the jab. Pictured: A volunteer is given the Oxford vaccine

Elderly and infirm people in Oxford, London, Brighton, Morecambe in Lancashire and Nuneaton in Warwickshire are due to be first to receive the jab. Pictured: A volunteer is given the Oxford vaccine

Two thirds of England's population is now in Tier 4, with the remainder living in Tier 3 lockdowns. Only the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, is in the looser Tier 2

Two thirds of England’s population is now in Tier 4, with the remainder living in Tier 3 lockdowns. Only the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, is in the looser Tier 2

Doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine were logged as they arrived at the Princess Royal Hospital yesterday

Doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine were logged as they arrived at the Princess Royal Hospital yesterday

Dentist who offered to be NHS Covid vaccinator slams ‘overload of bureaucracy’

A dentist who offered to become an NHS Covid vaccinator has slammed the ‘overload of bureaucracy’ involved in the application process.

Dentist Andy Bates revealed he ‘gave up’ after having to wade through a huge checklist of training modules so he could qualify to administer the Covid-19 vaccine.    

The learning list involves 18 modules, including vaccine administration, vaccine storage and core knowledge about jabs.

But other modules needed to administer the vaccine include one on fire safety and another on ‘preventing radicalisation’ – an NHS course on how to safeguard vulnerable people from being radicalised towards terrorism.

A DBS check, a passport or proof of right to work, and a highest education certificate are also required. 

The NHS says the ‘appropriate training and checks are necessary to handle the vaccine’.

But Dr Bates, a 56-year-old dentist based in Skipton, North Yorkshire, told the BBC that the ‘huge list of documents’ he was asked to complete put him off.

Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘The overwhelming majority of GPs have opted to take part in delivering the vaccine through primary care networks. 

‘In areas where they have not yet agreed to take part, the NHS will deliver vaccinations in hospital hubs or dedicated centres.’

Yesterday Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, who was involved in development of the jab with AstraZeneca, said successive UK governments had left the nation unable to manufacture vaccine at the pace needed in a pandemic.

A Government spokesman said: ‘We have long recognised the importance of vaccine manufacturing, having announced an innovation centre in 2018 and invested £93million [last year] to rapidly accelerate its construction.’ 

Earlier this month, AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot promised the firm will be able to deliver two million doses a week by mid-January – meaning 24million could be immunised by Easter. 

Last month, AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot promised the firm will be able to deliver two million doses a week by mid-January – meaning 24million could be immunised by Easter.

But an insider said the target may be too big an ask and said ‘we have never said we will do two million jabs a week’. 

The source told The Daily Telegraph:  ‘We have to manage expectations. You cannot vaccinate two million people a week from nothing.’

As it stands, around 250,000 people are getting the jab every seven days. NHS says the logistics of the distribution – including training volunteers and preparing sites – may mean the process may take longer than promised.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty this week warned that vaccine availability issues will ‘remain the case for several months’ and while a jab shortage ‘is a reality that cannot be wished away.

The 530,000 doses ready for distribution tomorrow – along with a further 450,000 expected in the coming days – are a fraction of what was promised. 

Officials initially said that 30million doses would be ready by the end of the year.

The vaccine can be kept at normal fridge temperature. The jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, on the other hand, needs cold storage of around -70C. Pictured: Assistant Technical Officer Lukasz Najdrowski unpacks doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine yesterday

The vaccine can be kept at normal fridge temperature. The jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, on the other hand, needs cold storage of around -70C. Pictured: Assistant Technical Officer Lukasz Najdrowski unpacks doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine yesterday

London is now the epicentre of the outbreak and its hospitals are being stretched with the flood of patients. The weekly rate of cases is double the national average at 858 per 100,000

London is now the epicentre of the outbreak and its hospitals are being stretched with the flood of patients. The weekly rate of cases is double the national average at 858 per 100,000

The UK’s vaccine tsar toned the estimate down to 4million in November, citing manufacturing problems.

India, on the other hand, preparing to deliver 50million doses of the Oxford vaccine that it has manufactured and stockpiled. 

Sir John Bell, a Regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and member of SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), stressed that insufficient investment in the capacity to make vaccines has left Britain unprepared. 

He also accused successive governments of failing to build onshore manufacturing capacity for medical products – with Oxford/AstraZeneca counting on outsourced companies to help create doses, such as Halix in the Netherlands, Cobra Biologics in Staffordshire and Oxford Biomedica.  

In a bid to ration supplies, the Government has pledged to give single doses of the Pfizer vaccine to as many people as they can – rather than give a second dose to those already vaccinated.

But manufactures of both the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs have rubbished distribution concerns, saying there is no problem with supply.

There are 15 million doses of the Oxford vaccine waiting to be packaged up – while ‘millions’ of doses have been shipped over by Pfizer.

A total of 24 million vials are ready to be used or acquired on short notice – with a further 140 million on order from the Government. 

Meanwhile, there have been concerns that tens of thousands of recently retired GPs, surgeons, and nurses are being put off helping out with the nation’s vaccine drive due to the bureaucracy involved.

Criticism has been mounting of ‘ridiculous’ demands such as a requirement to be certified in fire safety, or trained in preventing radicalisation.

Among those to be vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab from next week will be vulnerable NHS staff and social care workers who are at risk. Pictured: Assistant Technical Officer Lukasz Najdrowski unpacks doses on Monday

Among those to be vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab from next week will be vulnerable NHS staff and social care workers who are at risk. Pictured: Assistant Technical Officer Lukasz Najdrowski unpacks doses on Monday

Hundreds of people are expected to be vaccinated per day at the Princess Royal Hospital site, with efficiency expected to increase after the first few days of the programme, according to Dr Findlay

Hundreds of people are expected to be vaccinated per day at the Princess Royal Hospital site, with efficiency expected to increase after the first few days of the programme, according to Dr Findlay

Asked about the complaints, Boris Johnson said: ‘I think it’s absurd and I know that the Health Secretary is taking steps to get rid of that pointless bureaucracy.’

Former PM Tony Blair urged the government to target five million vaccinations a week – saying it was hard to see how schools could stay open otherwise.

He told Times Radio: ‘If I was the prime minister right now I would be saying to the team in Downing Street, ‘I need you to give me a plan to get this up to five million (vaccinations) a week’.

‘Provided we’ve got the vaccine available and we should have them available. I mean AstraZeneca will, not this week or next week but the week after, be able to get up to two million doses a week, that’s just AstraZeneca.

‘They could probably do more if they knew that the system was capable of absorbing the amount of vaccines that they would produce.

‘You should get clearance for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the end of January, that’s when they complete their trials and then we should be able to get that on stream as well in February.’

Q&A: I’ve had Covid. So do I still need this? 

Who can get a Covid vaccine?

Every adult in Britain will be able to get one unless doctors advise against it. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can have the jab if medics believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

When will I get it?

The first people to get the jabs will be the 22 million at the highest risk of dying from Covid and those who work for the NHS or in care homes. If you not on are the priority list, you are unlikely to get the jab until much later in the year.

Can I buy it?

The vaccines are provided free on the NHS and cannot be bought privately in the UK. The NHS will invite people for the vaccine by phone, text or letter.

What if I’ve had Covid?

You still need the vaccine because the immunity you get from being infected is believed to be only short-lived.

Do we have enough vaccines?

We have 530,000 doses of the Oxford vaccine ready to go, but 100 million have been ordered. By the beginning of April about 10 million people should have been vaccinated. Boris Johnson has promised that ‘by Easter… things will be very much better’. Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, believes the 22 million people most vulnerable to the virus will have jabs by ‘late spring’.

How many people have been vaccinated so far?

Just under one million.

Where will I get it?

It will be available from GP surgeries, hospitals and mass vaccination centres in sporting venues and conference centres (see graphic right).

Which jabs are available?

The UK has approved two for use so far – one by Pfizer and BioNTech and the other by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. You will not be able to choose which one you receive. Both vaccines require two doses.

What is the gap between doses?

The second Pfizer jab can be given three to 12 weeks after the first and the Oxford vaccine four to 12 weeks later. The Government last week ruled that the gap should be 12 weeks, saying that ‘vaccinating a greater number of people with a single dose will prevent more deaths and hospitalisations than vaccinating a smaller number with two doses’.

How effective are the jabs?

Trials suggest the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is 73 per cent effective 22 days after the first dose, rising to 80 per cent if the second dose is taken after 12 weeks. Trials show the Pfizer vaccine is 95 per cent effective.

How long does it take for the vaccines to start to work?

About two weeks.

Will having the jab mean I can ignore local tier restrictions?

No. You will be bound by the law until the restrictions lift.

Why will the Oxford jab speed up vaccination?

The Oxford jab is cheaper – costing £3 a dose, compared to £15. It is also made in the UK, and does not require storage at extremely low temperatures of -70C, but can be kept in a normal fridge.

Are the vaccines safe?

Yes. Both have passed clinical trials and been tested on thousands of people.

Will the jabs protect against the mutant variant of Covid?

Tests are being carried out but early indications are that both will protect against the latest variant of the virus.

Will children get a jab?

No. Children are not severely affected by Covid-19 so will not receive jabs.

As a Roman Catholic, should I get the vaccination?

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been developed from cell-lines originating from the cells of an aborted foetus, but the Catholic Church said Catholics may receive the jab in good conscience and they have a duty to protect others.

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