'Pivotal moment' as Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine begins rollout

Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

The first doses of the Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in what has been described as a "pivotal moment" in the UK’s fight against coronavirus by the health secretary.

Dialysis patient Brian Pinker was the first person in the country to be given the jab outside of clinical trials, at Oxford University Hospital, NHS England said.

The 82-year-old, who describes himself as Oxford born and bred, said receiving the jab "means everything to me".

He added: "To my mind, it's the only way to getting back to a normal life."

Just over 500,000 doses of the newly approved vaccine are available from Monday, with vulnerable groups already identified as the priority for immunisation.

Jabs are being delivered at some 730 vaccination sites already established across the UK, with others opening this week to take the total to more than 1,000, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The vaccine is being administered at a small number of hospitals in England for the first few days, including at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where it was developed.

ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke has more on whether the vaccine will work against the new Covid variant:

Five other hospital trusts - two in London, and others in Sussex, Lancashire and Warwickshire - will also start delivering the vaccine on Monday.

The bulk of supplies will then be sent to hundreds of GP-led services and care homes later in the week for wider rollout, according to the DHSC.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there will be a "massive ramp up" in vaccination numbers.

Speaking during a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London to meet some of the first people to receive the Oxford vaccine on Monday Mr Johnson said there were "tough tough" weeks to come.

Six hospital trusts will begin administering the jab from Monday. Credit: PA

He added: "It’s not the ability to distribute the vaccine, it’s not the shortage of staff.

"It’s getting it properly tested. That will ramp up in the weeks ahead."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the beginning of the rollout as "a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus", adding he hopes "it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight".

The Tory MP urged everyone to continue to follow the coronavirus restrictions while the vaccination programme is under way to "keep cases down and protect our loved ones".

The UK has secured 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as part of its contract, enough for most of the population.

While some 530,000 doses are to be available from Monday, the DHSC said that tens of millions more are to be delivered in the coming weeks and months once batches have been quality checked.

It comes almost a month after rollout of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech began, with more than one million people having now received their first dose.

Second doses of either vaccine will now take place within 12 weeks rather than the 21 days that was initially planned with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, following a change in guidance which aims to accelerate immunisation amid soaring infection rates.

This has been defended by the UK’s four chief medical officers following criticism, including from the British Medical Association (BMA).

The doctors’ union said it was “grossly and patently unfair” for at-risk patients whose imminent second jab appointments would now be rescheduled.

The Oxford University and AstraZeneca jab is easier to transport and store than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which needs cold storage of around -70C.

Because it can be stored at fridge temperatures, between 2-8C, it is easier to distribute to care homes and other locations across the UK.

In line with recommendations of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), vaccination is being rolled out to priority groups including care home residents and staff, people over 80 and healthcare workers.

GPs and local vaccination services have been asked to ensure every care home resident in their local area is vaccinated by the end of January, according to DHSC.