The Daily Mail
THE British-made Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca has today been approved for use – hours before millions more people are plunged into Tier 4 lockdown.
In a boost for the UK as it recorded more than 50,000 cases for the first time yesterday, the Department of Health has said today’s decision will pave the way for rapid rollout of the jab and a ‘route out’ of the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine – enough to vaccinate 50 million people – with the first jabs starting on Monday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the gap between the first jab and the second jab will be extended from four weeks to 12 weeks to ensure as many people as possible can be vaccinated before Easter. The same rule will be applied to the Pfizer jab already approved in early December.
Mr Hancock said today’s decision means Britain can ‘accelerate the vaccine rollout’ and ‘brings forward the day when we can get our lives back to normal’, adding: We can say now with confidence that we can get out of this by spring’.
He told Sky News: ‘It is going to be a difficult few weeks ahead. We can see the pressures right now on the NHS and it is absolutely critical that people follow the rules and do everything they can to stop the spread, particularly of the new variant of this virus that transmits so much faster.
‘But we also know that there is a route out of this. The vaccine provides that route out. We have all just got to hold our nerve over the weeks to come.’
The announcement came as millions more people face the country’s toughest Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions this week, with Boris Johnson to decide which regions will endure the changes later today.
Matt Hancock will announce the changes in the Commons later with insiders questioning whether the vaccine news has been released as a precursor for stricter lockdown restrictions.
Pressure has mounted on the Government to act as hospitals across England warned of increasing strains on services due to Covid-19 patient numbers, which have reached their highest levels during the pandemic, while a record daily high of 51,135 further cases were reported on Tuesday, along with 414 deaths.