Nearly 1m people in the UK have now had their first dose of the Covid vaccine

Almost one million people in the UK have been given their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the Department of Health says.

A total of 944,539 people were given a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab between December 9 and 27.

The breakdown is 786,000 in England, 92,188 in Scotland, 35,335 in Wales and 31,016 in Northern Ireland.

It comes as the rollout of the new Oxford and AstraZeneca jab is due to begin on Monday after the UK was the first country in the world to approve it. It was also the first to approve the Pfizer vaccine.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan and today’s figures show once again how our fantastic NHS has risen to this enormous task, providing 944,539 people across the UK with their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

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A woman receives the Covid-19 vaccine at the Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds
A woman receives the Covid-19 vaccine at the Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds

“Now that we have authorised a second vaccine, we can expect this number to rapidly increase in the months ahead.

“With hundreds of vaccination sites now open across the country, I would like to thank the health and care staff who are working so hard to deliver this vaccination programme.”

The UK Government has said it has secured early access to 357 million vaccines doses through agreements with several developers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government is “working as hard and as fast as we can” to get supplies of the newly-approved vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca to people, with the rollout due to begin on Monday.

There will be 530,000 doses available from next week, with priority given to care home residents, people aged over 80s, and health and care workers.

The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, enough to vaccinate 50 million people.

But GP leaders have criticised a decision to delay giving the second dose of Covid-19 vaccines – following the announcement of a new dosing regimen – saying the move will cause huge problems for thousands of partially-vaccinated elderly and vulnerable people.

The Government said on Wednesday it wanted to give a first dose to as many people as possible before starting to administer boosters at 12 weeks, in an effort to provide more people with a degree of protection more quickly.

This graphic explains how the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine works
This graphic explains how the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine works

For the Oxford vaccine, the plan is consistent with a finding that waiting 12 weeks maximises protection against the virus.

But in the case of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot that is already being given, the manufacturer said the shot had not been evaluated on dosing schedules different from the recommended 21 days.

Pfizer said it had no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose was sustained after 21 days.

A spokeswoman for the NHS said the new guidance would “increase the number of vulnerable people protected against COVID over the next three months, potentially saving thousands of lives”.

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She said financial and practical help was being provided to help accelerate vaccinations.

But Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) committee for local family doctors, said it was “grossly and patently unfair to tens of thousands of our most at-risk patients to now try to reschedule their appointments”.

The BMA said scores of doctors had told it that the new approach would distress vulnerable patients and create logistical problems for healthcare staff.

“The BMA believes these are patients that have already been promised … that they will receive a second dose of Pfizer vaccination next week; they have given their consent to receive it and, quite rightly, are expecting to have it,” it said.

A graphic explaining how the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine works
The Pfizer-BioNTech was the first to receive approval for emergency use

Covid-19 vaccines are the UK’s biggest hope as it is ravaged by a devastating second wave of the virus, with deaths and hospital admissions soaring due to a new, more infectious variant.

When the UK’s medicines regulator approved the Pfizer jab for emergency use, Mr Hancock boldly predicted the country would be through Covid-19 “by spring”.

However, it depends on a swift and smooth rollout of vaccines to millions of vulnerable Britons.

A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has concluded that Britain must vaccinate two million people a week to avoid a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

A man receives the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a drive-thru centre in Hyde, Greater Manchester

It also warned that 2021 could be worse than 2020 when it comes to infections and deaths.

“The most stringent intervention scenario with tier 4 (restrictions) England-wide and schools closed during January and 2 million individuals vaccinated per week, is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU (intensive care) burden below the levels seen during the first wave”, the study said.

“In the absence of substantial vaccine roll-out, cases, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths in 2021 may exceed those in 2020.”

An accelerated uptake of two million vaccinated per week “is predicted to have a much more substantial impact”, it added.

The study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

Responding to the study, a Department of Health spokesman said that “over the coming weeks and months the rate of vaccination will increase as millions more doses become available and the programme continues to expand”.

The Government said a further 964 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, bringing the UK total to 73,512.

It is the second highest daily total of the second wave.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 89,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 55,892 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK – a new record.

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 2,488,780.


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