THE first Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine doses have been delivered to hospitals across the UK today.
Some 530,000 doses of the vaccine will be available for rollout across the UK from Monday, with vulnerable groups to be given the jab first.
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The Oxford vaccine is the second vaccine to be given the go ahead in the UK after the Pfizer/BionTech jab began being rolled out last month.
One of the first hospitals to take delivery of an Oxford batch on Saturday morning was the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, part of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Dr George Findlay, chief medical officer and deputy chief executive at the trust, said the vaccination programme gives NHS staff "more confidence" coming into work.
He said as it can be kept at normal fridge temperature, this vaccine is "much easier" to administer when compared with the jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, which needs cold storage of around minus 70C.
Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
It means that along with the 40 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine, the UK now has enough doses ordered to inoculate the entire population, the health secretary revealed this week.
Experts say the jab from Oxford and AstraZeneca could give up to 70 per cent protection 22 days after the first dose.
People won't need their second dose for another three months – allowing medics to roll the first jabs out to as many people as possible.
Of this 12 week gap, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock said: "This is important because it means that we can get the first dose into more people more quickly and they can get the protection the first dose gives you.
"The scientists and the regulators have looked at the data and found that you get what they call 'very effective protection' from the first dose.
"The second dose is still important – especially for the long-term protection – but it does mean that we will be able to vaccinate more people more quickly than we previously could."
Hundreds are expected to be vaccinated everyday at the Princess Royal Hospital site, with efficiency expected to increase after the first few days of the programme, according to Dr Findlay.
"We've got a delivery hub set up in the grounds of this hospital, so we've got the infrastructure there to invite people in for booked appointments," he said.
"And we will make sure those booked appointments are full every day from Monday going forward."
Among those to be vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab from next week will be vulnerable NHS staff and social care workers who are at risk.
"We started vaccinating on our other hospital site a few weeks ago, it's been seen as a really positive step, something that gives staff more confidence to come to work," Dr Findlay said.
"You only have to look at the statistics over the last 10 months about how many staff have suffered illness, or sadly lost their lives.
"This gives staff the confidence to come to work to be able to look after patients."
Dr Findlay added the hospital has been under "quite a lot of pressure" since the start of December due to a rise in cases amid a new variant of the virus.
"And that's increased over the past few weeks as cases in the community increase, and then hospitalisations increase, and critical care requirements increase," he said.
He said the hospital had decreased planned care, with some routine operations postponed to enable staff to focus on the Covid-19 response.
It comes after Matt Hancock revealed this morning that more than a million people have now been given the Pfizer jab, declaring "the ends is in sight".
Mr Hancock tweeted: "Huge THANK YOU to everyone playing their part in the national effort to beat coronavirus.
"Over a million people have been vaccinated already.
"With the vaccine roll-out accelerating, the end is in sight & we will get through this together."
In order to get as many people inoculated as possible, The Sun has launched an appeal for 50,000 volunteers to help at Covid vaccination centres.
You can help here.
How to sign up
VOLUNTEERS for the Jabs Army are being asked to first register online at nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk
You will then receive an email with log-in details to sign up online.
Finally, you will be asked to download the GoodSAM app on a smartphone which will match you to a role in your area.
Services will be opening in the coming days and weeks, with different areas up and running at different times, so you might not be required on site for some weeks. Not everyone who signs up will need to be called upon.
You need to commit to only two six-hour shifts a month at a vaccination service, and no prior experience or qualifications are required.
You will work as part of a team that will include NHS staff and volunteers. The Royal Voluntary Service will conduct appropriate background checks.
Go to nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk
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