Covid vaccine: Almost 138,000 people have received first dose, minister says

UK has made ‘really good start to the vaccination program,’ says health minister Nadhim Zahawi

Samuel Lovett
Wednesday 16 December 2020 11:33
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What you need to know about the coronavirus vaccines

Nearly 138,000 people in the UK have received a first dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech over the past seven days, the government has announced.

The jab was first authorised for emergency use by the UK’s drug regulator two weeks ago, and has since been rolled out to hospitals, mass vaccination sites and GPs.

Those over the age of 80 have been prioritised in the first wave of vaccinations, though some frontline NHS staff have also been administered with a dose.

Health minister Nadhim Zahawi, who has been appointed to oversee the national rollout, said the UK had made a “really good start to the vaccination program".

Breaking down the numbers for the four nations, Mr Zahawi said that 108,000 doses had been administered in England, 7,897 in Wales, 4,000 across Northern Ireland, and 18,000 in Scotland, giving an overall total of 137,897.

Mr Zahawi said this figure will increase after “hundreds” of primary care networks were operationalised on Tuesday, enabling people to visit local surgeries and GP-led vaccination sites to receive the jab.

The Department for Health and Social Care told The Independent that the government will be providing “regular” updates on how many people have received the vaccine across the UK.

According to the PA news agency, No 10 has been consulting with the devolved nations to ensure the data presented is consistent across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This comes after government officials would not be drawn on how many doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are due to arrive in the UK and on what schedule.

It had been hoped that 10 million doses would be in the country by the end of 2020, but this has now dropped to five million doses. To date, 800,000 doses are known to have been delivered to the UK.

Overall, the government has already ordered 40 million doses of the jab - enough to vaccinate 20 million people.

Addressing the national rollout, housing secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC: "We've obviously moved extremely fast as a country - we're the first mover in the world of vaccines so the rollout is happening at pace.

"Tens of thousands of people have been vaccinated, people will be being vaccinated as we speak, right now, but I think it was right that the Department for Health took a few days or weeks to make sure that the data was as robust as possible before starting to put that out into the public domain."

Vaccinating the population against coronavirus will cost taxpayers up to £11.7bn, according to the UK’s public spending watchdog has estimated.  

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the sum would be spent buying and making Covid-19 jabs for the UK, deploying them in England and helping global efforts to find a vaccine.  

But the figure does not cover the costs of any future potential multi-year vaccination programmes.  

The costs to the taxpayer are uncertain and depend on how vaccines develop through clinical trials and what is required to manufacture and administer them, the NAO said.

The government has ordered more than 350 million vaccine doses from seven different candidates, three of which - developed by Oxford University, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech - have already been shown to be effective in preventing Covid disease.

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