UK reaches 10 million landmark with COVID-19 vaccination programme

The UK has reached a major landmark with its COVID-19 vaccination programme, with more than 10 million people receiving their first shot.

After almost a year of restrictions to prevent the virus spreading, there is now hope that normal life may begin to return as data collected separately in Israel showed that vaccination also helps to reduce transmission rates.

There’s also a political dimension to the UK’s vaccination programme, as it is the first sign that the government is starting to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

Prime minister Boris Johnson hailed the 10 million milestone in a press conference at Downing Street as the country looks set to meet its goal of 15 million vaccines administered to high-risk patients by mid-February.

Amid a national lockdown, infection levels are falling fast but with just over 19,000 new cases recorded yesterday the country is still in serious trouble.

There were 1,322 deaths reported from the virus yesterday, with the national tally now standing at more than 109,000.

Responding to the vaccine figures, Danny Mortimer chief executive of the NHS Confederation representing organisations across the heathcare sector, said people must continue adhering to lockdown restrictions to reduce transmissions.

He said: “Whilst there are encouraging signs of improvement and with news that the second wave has now peaked, infection rates are still very high and the NHS remains under immense pressure.

“It’s important that we have a clear understanding of the national picture, including those who have yet to take up the opportunity to be vaccinated so that we can understand whether certain communities or groups continue to be at greater risk from COVID-19 and therefore will need tailored and targeted engagement as the programme continues.”

Business confidence has also soared thanks to the progress with vaccinations.

Luke Davis, CEO of IW Capital, was optimistic about the economic recovery to come.

He said: “The vaccine’s success so far is a welcomed sight for investors and businesses alike, and now with business confidence at a high and with investors looking to back British businesses, we are sure to see the resurgence of the sectors that have been hardest hit – such as hospitality – with pent-up demand from lockdown playing a key role in boosting the economy later this year.”

Much of the UK’s vaccination programme has been built around the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine, which was quickly approved by the UK regulator in the last week of December.

But not every regulator has been so quick to authorise – it took the European system until the end of January to authorise the shot and this week Switzerland’s regulator SwissMedic has refused to authorise it until there is more data about its effectiveness in older people.

France and Germany have also restricted the vaccine’s use to those under the age of 65 until further data is available in this age group.

The EMA has also begun a rolling review of Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, following a similar move by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week.

The EMA’s CHMP scientific committee based on preliminary results from laboratory studies (non-clinical data) and early clinical studies in adults.

The rolling review will continue until enough evidence is available for a formal marketing authorisation application.

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