On 4 January 2021, the Government began to roll out the second vaccine approved by regulators, and developed in the UK by Oxford University / AstraZeneca.
We have reached a pivotal moment in our fight against coronavirus, but the availability of a second vaccine provides renewed assurance that the end of the pandemic is in sight.
Already over 1 million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK. From today, the NHS will begin administering the first doses of the Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccine – we have got 530,000 ready to be deployed and secured access to 100 million doses in total – alongside the Pfizer vaccine, as part of a national effort that has already seen more people inoculated in the UK than the rest of Europe put together.
The Conservative Government's plan to roll out vaccinations as quickly as possible is well underway, with 730 vaccination sites already up and running. But although the end is in sight, we must all continue to play our part to drive down the virus by following the guidance and the restrictions.
The Government are doing this by:
- Starting the rollout of the Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccine across the UK, starting the process of protecting the most vulnerable and saving thousands of lives. From today, the NHS will begin administering the first doses of the Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccine – with 530,000 ready to be deployed and 100 million doses secured in total. The UK was the first country in the world to procure and authorise the Oxford vaccine, and we are the first country in the world to start a vaccination programme using this vaccine.
- Delivering over 1 million vaccine doses so far across the UK – with 1,000 vaccine sites up and running by the end of the week. More than 730 vaccination sites have already been established across the UK and hundreds more are opening this week to take the total to over 1,000, helping those who are most at risk from COVID-19 to access vaccines for free, regardless of where they live.
The Government have ensured the UK has early access to vaccines:
- Securing access to 357 million vaccine doses through agreements with seven separate vaccine developers – giving the UK the best shot of having early access to a vaccine when one is found to be safe and effective. This includes 100 million doses of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, 60 million doses of the Valneva vaccine, 60 million doses of the GSK/Sanofi Pasteur vaccine and 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine.
- Investing more than £230 million into manufacturing any successful vaccine. An enormous amount of planning and preparation has also taken place across Government to be able to quickly roll out a vaccine, including ensuring we have adequate provision, transport, PPE and logistical expertise to do so.
- Establishing the Vaccine Taskforce to ensure the UK has access to safe and effective vaccines as soon as possible. The Taskforce supports efforts to rapidly develop a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible by providing industry and research institutions with the resources and support needed. This includes reviewing regulations and scaling up manufacturing, so that when a vaccine becomes available, it can be produced quickly and in mass quantities.
- Making it easier to rollout vaccines across the country. We have introduced new laws that allow more healthcare workers to administer both flu and potential Covid-19 vaccines. Thanks to these changes, independent nurses, allied healthcare professionals, paramedics and pharmacists are now able to undergo robust training and be allowed to administer a vaccine.
- Providing record funding to fund a coronavirus vaccine. In March, the Prime Minister announced £210 million of new UK aid funding to help find a vaccine for coronavirus – the latest single contribution by any country. The funding is helping scientists and researchers continue to lead global efforts to develop a workable coronavirus vaccine, including at the University of Oxford.6
- Providing up to £93 million to open the UK’s first dedicated Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre 12 months early. We are working to open the centre in summer 2021 – a full 12 months ahead of schedule. It will ensure that a vaccine can be produced quickly and in mass quantities. While the centre is being built, we are establishing a rapid deployment facility, backed by £38 million to begin manufacturing at scale and supporting efforts to ensure a vaccine is widely available to the public as soon as possible.
- Securing a major commitment from social media companies to tackle vaccine disinformation. Following meetings with the Government, Facebook, Twitter and Google committed to the principle that no company should profit from or promote Covid-19 anti-vaccine disinformation, to respond to flagged content more swiftly, and to work with authorities to promote scientifically accurate messages.
On the 11th January, the Government published their Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Plan which details how the UK government was able to build up a supply of vaccines and how it is planning to deploy them. The Plan sets out how the Government will work with the NHS, devolved administrations, local councils and the armed forces to deliver the largest vaccination programme in British history.
By the end of January, everyone in England will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site or, for a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccine will be brought to them via mobile teams. There will also be capacity to deliver at least 2 million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January and all residents and staff in over 10,000 care homes across the country will be offered a vaccine by the end of the month.
Information on the local roll-out of the vaccine is available here - the information details the location of vaccination sites, GP vaccination sites, and details on how the vaccine is administered.
Information on the national roll-out of the vaccine is available here - we have already vaccinated 4.2 million people and we will now begin targeting the next two groups. From Monday 18th January, millions of people aged 70 and over and those clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 will be invited to get their vaccinations as the NHS begins roll out of the vaccines to these next two priority groups. In areas where a significant majority of priority groups 1-2 have been done, they can now move to priority groups 3-4.
It is important to stress that we have a clear exit strategy, which will allow us to return to normal life. Thanks to a truly worldwide scientific effort, we are now rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in our history. With the approval our own Oxford vaccine, the pace of vaccination can increase further. The Prime Minister has said that if everyone plays their part and helps to drive the numbers down, he hopes to be able to lift some restrictions by the end of February. By that point, if all goes well, care home residents, frontline health workers, and over-70s will have received their first vaccine doses and had time to develop immunity–that is over 13 million people removed from the virus’ path.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why have you changed the dosage schedule?
The four UK Chief Medical Officers agree with Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice that prioritising the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible on the priority list will protect the greatest number of at-risk people overall in the shortest possible time. The decision we have taken will literally double the number of people who are protected over the next few crucial months. Everyone will still receive a second dose within 12 weeks of their first.
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation has advised that the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine may be given between 3 to 12 weeks following the first dose, and that the second dose of the AstraZeneca (Oxford) vaccine may be given between 4 to 12 weeks following the first dose. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) also clarified that for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the interval between doses must be at least 3 weeks. For both the AstraZeneca (Oxford) and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, data provided to MHRA demonstrate that while efficacy is optimised when a second dose is administered, both offer considerable protection after a single dose, at least in the short term.
Q: Who gets the vaccine when?
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age. The order of priority for each group in the population corresponds with data on the number of individuals who would need to be vaccinated to prevent one death, estimated from UK data obtained from March to June 2020:
- residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
- all those 75 years of age and over
- all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- all those 65 years of age and over
- all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- all those 60 years of age and over
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over
It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19.
The Committee is currently of the view that the key focus for the second phase of vaccination could be on further preventing hospitalisation.
Vaccination of those at increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 due to their occupation could also be a priority in the next phase. This could include first responders, the military, those involved in the justice system, teachers, transport workers, and public servants essential to the pandemic response. Priority occupations for vaccination are considered an issue of policy, rather than for JCVI to advise on. JCVI asks that the Department of Health and Social Care consider occupational vaccination in collaboration with other government departments.
Q: How do I book a vaccine?
You can only book a vaccine if you have received a letter inviting you to book your vaccination appointments, then you can use the following service. If you do not have access to the internet, then call 119 if you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland or 0300 303 2713 if you’re in Scotland. Lines are open 7am to11pm.
The Government are introducing a National Booking Service to helping make the process of booking and accessing an appointment easier for those offered a vaccine in the coming days, weeks and months ahead.