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UK administers first AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: The United Kingdom began vaccinating its population with the COVID-19 shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca on Monday, calling it a scientific “triumph” that puts its ahead in inoculations against the virus.

Britain, which is rushing to vaccinate its population faster than the United States and the rest of Europe, is the first country to roll out the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot. It rolled out the Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech vaccine last year.

Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, aged 82, was the first to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot at Oxford University Hospital, just a few hundred metres from where the vaccine was developed.

“I am so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford,” Pinker, a retired maintenance manager who has been having dialysis for kidney disease, said.

He was looking forward to celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary with wife Shirley in February. “The nurses, doctors and staff today have all been brilliant,” he added,

Britain has administered more than a million COVID-19 vaccines, more than the rest of Europe put together, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. “That’s a triumph of British science that we’ve managed to get where we are,” Hancock said. “Right at the start, we saw that the vaccine was the only way out long term”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has secured 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which can be stored at fridge temperatures between two to eight degrees, making it easier to distribute than the Pfizer shot.

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

Britain last month became the first country to use a different vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, which has to be stored at very low temperatures. Other Western countries have taken a longer and more cautious approach to rolling out vaccines.

The cases of COVID-19 in Britain have risen sharply in recent weeks, fuelled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus. There were nearly 55,000 new cases on Sunday 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.