WORLD / EUROPE
‘Pivotal moment’ as Britain set to roll out AstraZeneca vaccine
Published: Jan 04, 2021 05:53 PM
Britain will become the first country to roll out the low cost and easily transportable AstraZeneca and Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, another step forward in the global response to the pandemic.

Doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are logged by a technical officer after they arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath on Saturday in West Sussex, the UK. Photo: VCG

Six hospitals in England will administer the first of around 530,000 doses Britain has ready. The program will be expanded to hundreds of other British sites in the coming days, and the government hopes it will deliver tens of millions of doses within months.

"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," health minister Matt Hancock said in a statement.

In December 2020, Britain became the first country to use a different vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, which has to be stored at very low temperatures. Britain has so far injected around 1 million people with it.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper and can be stored at fridge temperature, which makes it easier to transport and use. India approved the vaccine on Sunday for emergency use.

Cases of COVID-19 in Britain have risen sharply in recent weeks, fueled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus. On Sunday there were nearly 55,000 new cases and in total more than 75,000 people in the country have died with COVID-19 during the pandemic - the second highest toll in Europe.

While the government has been keen to hail its vaccination program as the furthest advanced in the world, it has had to balance the optimism of that message and plead with the public to stick to rules to prevent new infections.
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