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Britain has taken another giant step in the fight against COVID-19, intensifying its immunization program by administering the world’s first vaccines since vaccine created by the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, was the first Monday to receive the new vaccine, administered by the head nurse at Oxford University Hospital. Pinker said he was very happy and that now he can “really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley later this year.”

Since December 8, Britain’s National Health Service has been using a vaccine made by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech to vaccinate nursing home care workers, residents and staff. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine adds to that arsenal and is cheaper and easier to use, as it does not require the super cold storage that the Pfizer vaccine does.

Brian Pinker, 82, receives the University of Oxford / AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Nurse Sam Foster at Churchill Hospital in Oxford as the NHS ramps up its vaccination schedule with 530,000 doses of the recently approved vaccine available for his deployment across the UK. (AP)

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was administered in a small number of UK hospitals during the first few days so authorities can be vigilant for any adverse reactions. But hundreds of new vaccination sites, both in hospitals and in local doctor’s offices, will launch this week, joining the more than 700 that are already in operation, NHS England said.

In a change from practices in the US and elsewhere, Britain now plans to give people a second dose of both vaccines within 12 weeks of the first injection rather than within 21 days, to speed up immunizations in as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

The government’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said Sunday that the decision is “the right thing to do for the entire nation.”

The UK is in the midst of an acute outbreak, recording more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day for the past six days. On Sunday, it recorded another 54,990 cases and 454 more virus-related deaths to bring its total confirmed deaths from the pandemic to 75,024, one of the worst in Europe.

Technical Petty Officer Lukasz Najdrowski unpacks doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and British pharmacist AstraZeneca when they arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, England. (AP)
Technical Petty Officer Lukasz Najdrowski unpacks doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and British pharmacist AstraZeneca when they arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, England. (AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday that more onerous lockdown restrictions are likely to be put in place in England in the coming weeks as the country reels from a variant of the coronavirus that has brought infection rates to their levels. highest recorded.

Johnson, however, insisted that he “has no doubt” that schools are safe and urged parents to send their children back to the classroom on Monday in areas of England where schools plan to reopen. Unions representing teachers have called for schools to turn to remote learning for at least a couple more weeks because of the variance, which officials say is up to 70 percent more contagious.

“We are fully reconciled to do whatever it takes to control the virus, which may mean tougher measures in the coming weeks,” Johnson told the BBC.

Johnson admitted that school closings, curfews and a total ban on home mixing could be on the agenda for the most stressed areas.

Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca arrive at Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, England. (AP)
Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca arrive at Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, England. (AP)
The doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the British laboratory AstraZeneca arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, England. (AP)

London and the south-east of England face extremely high levels of new infections and it is speculated that the restrictions will have to be tightened. Some areas in the region have more than 1,000 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents.

The conservative Johnson government is using a tiered coronavirus restriction system to try to stop the spread of the virus. Most of England is already at Level 4 highest, which means closing non-essential shops, gyms and recreation centers and attending classes at home.


www.9news.com.au

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