Millions to get Covid vaccine sooner as just one dose of Oxford jab gives ‘very effective protection’

MILLIONS of Brits will have “very effective protection” from the coronavirus with the first dose, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is given 12 weeks after the first, meaning more Brits can have the jab at a quicker pace.

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The new Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will mean more Brits are protected from the virus


The new Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will mean more Brits are protected from the virus Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Speaking on Sky News today Matt Hancock said the 12 week gap would help get the vaccine out faster


Speaking on Sky News today Matt Hancock said the 12 week gap would help get the vaccine out faster

In comparison, the Pfzier/BioNTech jab has to be given 21 days after the first jab – meaning the focus on the rollout has to stick with the first round of people who have already been innoculated.

The way the Oxford jabs works means that more people will be able to have the jab, and that experts will be given more time to produce the second dosage in the 12 week period.

Mr Hancock today said this 12 week gap would help speed up the rollout of the vaccine.

He said: “This is important because it means that we can get the first dose into more people more quickly and they can get the protection the first dose gives you.

“The scientists and the regulators have looked at the data and found that you get what they call ‘very effective protection’ from the first dose.

“The second dose is still important – especially for the long-term protection – but it does mean that we will be able to vaccinate more people more quickly than we previously could.”

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said the 12 week gap means people can “be injected very quickly”.

He said: “This enables us to protect many more people because we can wait two to three months for the second dose.

“It’s important for us to vaccinate as many people as we can, in January, we could be vaccinating several million people.”



Mr Soriot said the team were aligning the delivery schedule with the government in order to “ramp up the vaccination programme.

He said: “We are going to start doing this and ramp up the deliveries over the next two to three weeks. We are going to be able to do that very rapidly in the first and second week of January.

“We will start delivering this week – maybe today or tomorrow we will be shipping our first doses.

“The vaccination will start next week and we will get to one million a week and beyond that very rapidly.

“We can go to two million. In January we will already possibly be vaccinating several million people and by the end of the first quarter we are going to be in the tens of millions already.”


The rollout of the vaccine is to start in days, but questions have been raised as to whether or not the jab will work against the new strain.

Mr Soriot reassured Brits and said the team could get to work if it was found that the vaccine did not work against the new varaint.

Speaking on the Today programme he said: “Our belief is that this vaccine should be effective against the UK variant.

“Our Oxford colleagues are working with the NHS. If we need to deliver a new vaccine we can develop one – but it will take time.”

How does the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine work?

The vaccine – called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 – uses a harmless, weakened version of a common virus which causes a cold in chimpanzees.

Researchers have already used this technology to produce vaccines against a number of pathogens including flu, Zika and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers).

The virus is genetically modified so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.

Scientists have transferred the genetic instructions for coronavirus’s specific “spike protein” – which it needs to invade cells – to the vaccine.

When the vaccine enters cells inside the body, it uses this genetic code to produce the surface spike protein of the coronavirus.

This induces an immune response, priming the immune system to attack coronavirus if it infects the body.

It differs from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because they use messenger RNA technology (mRNA).

Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code.

An mRNA vaccine is injected into the body where it enters cells and tells them to create antigens.

These antigens are recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.

No actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine. This means the rate at which the vaccine can be produced is accelerated

His comments were echoed by Oxford’s Professor Andrew Pollard, who said it should be “entirely possible” to tweak vaccines should that be necessary to deal with new variants of the virus.

He told the Today programme: “At the moment there’s no evidence that the vaccines won’t work against a new variant but that is something which we have to look at. We can’t be complacent about this variant, or perhaps future variants.

“And so one of the really important things that science has to continue to do now as we move forwards is to monitor the viruses that are around, and to make sure that vaccines still are effective against them.

“If in the future, it was necessary to tweak the vaccines that’s entirely possible to do, but I don’t think that’s something to be concerned about today, but we can’t be complacent, we have to keep watching.”


The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) approval of the Oxford’s jabs mean they can be given to millions from the week beginning January 4, even if further Pfizer stocks slow until the spring.

Sports stadiums and conference centres will be used as massive vaccination hubs, with ministers planning to have two million jab administered within a fortnight. 

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the Oxford drug can be kept in a standard fridge – rather than at an ultra-cold -70C.

That means it’s cheaper and easier to transport and store, with the jabs set to be manufactured in Oxford and Newcastle.

The Department of Health confirmed the vaccine’s approval this morning, after scientists worked day and night on the jab since the start of the pandemic.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.

“This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.”

Mr Hancock added that he will be announcing further measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 following the latest rise in the number of cases.

“We are facing a very significant challenge in the NHS right now,” he told Sky News.

“There has been a significant rise in the number of cases – the highest number of cases recorded yesterday, 53,000 cases.

“We are going to have to take further action. I’m going to set that out the House of Commons later today.”

Matt Hancock says UK has 100 million doses of Oxford Covid vaccine on order and rollout will start Monday


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