Covid-19: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in UK
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday.
There will be 530,000 doses available from next week, and vaccination centres will now start inviting patients to come and get the jab.
Priority groups for immunisation have already been identified, starting with care home residents, the over-80s, and health and care workers.
It comes as millions more in England are placed in tier four restrictions.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the new vaccine - enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
Eventually all over 50s and younger adults with health conditions will be offered a jab in the first phase of the rollout - more than 25 million people in total.
It is hoped that about two million patients a week could soon be vaccinated with two vaccines now approved.
On Tuesday, 53,135 new Covid cases were record
ed in the UK - the highest single day rise since mass testing began - as well as 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
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The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has authorised two full doses of the Oxford vaccine, with the second dose to be given four to 12 weeks after the first.
The immunisation campaign will now shift to giving as many people as possible their first dose of vaccine with a second dose following within that period.
When the Pfizer-BioNTech jab rollout began, the aim was to give the second dose after three weeks.
But based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the aim now is to give as many vulnerable people some protection from Covid-19, irrespective of the jab they are given.
The Oxford vaccine is easier to store and distribute, as it can be kept at normal fridge temperature unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab that has to be kept at -70C.
There is also more confidence about supply as it is UK-made, whereas the Pfizer-BioNTech jab has to be shipped in from Belgium.