The first people in the country are today receiving the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine as the NHS rapidly expands its COVID-19 vaccination programme.
The government has secured access to 100 million doses of the vaccine after it was authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on December 30.
More than half a million doses are available today, with tens of millions more to be delivered in the coming weeks and months once batches have been quality checked, the government said.
The first Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccinations will be delivered at hospitals for the first few days, before the bulk of supplies are sent to hundreds of GP-led services and care homes later in the week.
United Kingdom Homecare Association tweeted last week that it is working with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England to design the process to get community-based social care workers the COVID-19 vaccine.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am delighted that today we are rolling out the Oxford vaccine – a testament to British science. This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus and I hope it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight.
“Through its vaccine delivery plan the NHS is doing everything it can to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible and we will rapidly accelerate our vaccination programme.
“While the most vulnerable are immunised, I urge everybody to continue following the restrictions so we can keep cases down and protect our loved ones.”
More than a million people in the UK have been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was approved for use last month.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, between two to eight degrees, making it easier to distribute to care homes and other locations across the UK.
Current and former NHS staff have applied to become vaccinators, with tens of thousands having completed their online training. The government said these are being processed “as quickly as possible” and volunteer vaccinators will be deployed as more vaccine supplies become available.
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.
Meanwhile, MHRA, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the four UK chief medical officers agreed to delay the gap between the first and second dose of vaccines to ensure more people receive their first vaccination as soon as possible.
But the British Medical Association (BMA) has criticised this decision, saying that rearranging appointments for tens of thousands of patients who had their second vaccinations scheduled would cause “huge logistical problems’ for GPs.