Having kickstarted the NHS’ largest vaccination programme in its history, the Government has confirmed that more than 137,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine across the UK in just the first week.
Operating from more than 70 sites around the country, the first of two necessary doses was administered to people from priority groups: over-80s, care home workers and NHS staff.
Provisional figures put the number of people to receive their first dose of the vaccine by the end of Tuesday December 15, 2020 – one week after the very first non-clinical trial vaccines were delivered in the UK – at least 137,897 people had received the jab.
Around 108,000 of those vaccinated were in England.
Announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the data was caveated with the note that they were provisional and subject to change. Formal statistics are due to be published every week, from next week onwards.
So far, the majority of the vaccines have been administered to those from the initial priority groups in hospital settings, with eligible people being invited to attend a clinic and receive the jab; a process which has been put in place due to the current limitations on supply and significant demand.
GP-led centres began vaccinating patients this week in England, with a roll-out to expand to care home settings soon.
As the network of vaccination sites expands and more doses become available, the rate of vaccinations will increase too.
Mr Hancock said: “Thanks to the hard work of the NHS across the UK, over 137,000 people have already received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
“This is just the start and we will steadily expand our vaccination programme – ultimately helping everyone get back to normal life.”
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is currently the only vaccine to have been approved by the UK medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Patients require two doses of the vaccine, 21 days apart, for it to be fully effective.
The UK Government’s Vaccines Taskforce has already secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use by the whole of the UK.
MHRA reviews are currently underway on two other promising vaccine candidates, developed by the University of Oxford and Moderna respectively, and should they be approved would enable even more doses to be available to vaccine people.
Both prospective vaccine candidates, and in particular the University of Oxford one, are also encouraging in that they are easier to store than the Pfizer/BioNTech one – which requires being stored at -70C and specialised cold chain processes.
The UK Government has also been able to secure a significant number of doses of the University of Oxford vaccine candidate pre-emptively, with the UK-based vaccine likely to face fewer potential challenges being delivered from the manufacturer to the NHS.