About two million doses of Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca are set to be supplied every week by the middle of January in the UK, it has been reported.
It comes amid fears over shortages of vaccines and concerns over the slow roll-out of the inoculation programme, with only around 1% of the UK’s population having had a Covid-19 jab, amid a huge spike in the illness.
The Times said AstraZeneca expects to supply two million doses of the vaccine in total by next week, citing an unnamed member of the Oxford-AstraZeneca team.
“The plan is then to build it up fairly rapidly – by the third week of January we should get to two million a week,” the report added.
The company was not immediately available to respond to a Reuters request for comment.
On Wednesday, the UK authorities approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, hoping that rapid action will help it stem a record surge of infections driven by a highly contagious form of the virus.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has ordered 100 million doses for the country as part of an agreement with the company. The company had said it aims to supply millions of doses in the first quarter, adding that first vaccinations are slated to begin this year.
Britain, which has recorded more than 50,000 new daily cases of Covid-19 for the last four days, is dealing with a rapid spread of a much more infectious variant of the coronavirus. As of Friday, the UK has recorded 53,285 new Covid-19 cases and 613 deaths.
The deployment of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will begin on Monday, almost a month after the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab. But underlining the fears, the second doses of either will now take place within 12 weeks rather than 21 days as initially planned.
More than a million people have now received their first coronavirus vaccination – but figures compiled by Our World In Data, a research team based at the University of Oxford, shows it represents 0.84% of the population.
Professor David Salisbury, a former director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said he backs the revised Covid-19 vaccine strategy.
The associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Of course I accept it is inconvenient and isn’t helpful to have to change appointments and explain to people (about the delay in receiving a second jab), but the reason for doing this is to save lives.
“We know how many have been vaccinated, and across the whole country it isn’t all that many, but every time we give a second dose right now, we are holding that back from someone who is likely, if they get coronavirus, to die, and much more likely to die than somebody who has already had a single dose.”