UK rolls out AstraZeneca vaccine, touts British science triumph

  • UK first to roll out AstraZeneca
  • UK has vaccinated 1 million people
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca shot can be stored in fridge
  • China and Russia vaccinate their populations

LONDON: Britain began vaccinating its population on Monday with the COVID-19 shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, touting its position as the first Western country to roll out an inoculation programme against the novel coronavirus.

Britain, which is rushing to vaccinate its population faster than the United States and the rest of Europe in a bid to put the pandemic behind it, is the first country to roll out the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot.

It last year rolled out the Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech vaccine. Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, was the first to get the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot at 0730 GMT at Oxford University Hospital.

"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 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 said.

Britain has put more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccines into arms already - more than the rest of Europe put together, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, adding that the roll out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was a triumph.

"That's a triumph of British science that we've managed to get where we are," Hancock told Sky. "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 the coming days, and the government hopes it will deliver tens of millions of doses within months.