Britain's Covid jab rollout will 'go at twice the speed in March', says vaccine minister

BRITAIN'S Covid jab rollout will go at twice the speed in March, the government's vaccine minister has claimed.

Nadhim Zahawi today said that "March will be a big month" when it comes to the UK's coronavirus jab programme.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously vowed that all Brits would have received a first dose by July 31.

The previous aim had been for all adults to get a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca or the Pfizer/BioNTech offering by September.

All those over 50 and who have an underlying health condition are also set to get two jabs by April 15.

So far, more than 20 million Brits have received their first vaccine dose with nearly 800,000 having had their second.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning Mr Zahawi said: "March will be a very big month for us.

"We'll probably going to be twice the rate over the next 10 weeks as we have done over the past 10 or 11 weeks."


There are currently two vaccines being rolled out across the UK from Pfizer and AstraZeneca – both of which have experienced supply issues in Europe.

This slowed down the rollout of the vaccines but Prof Jonathan Van-Tam last week said he was “confident” that doses will continue coming into the UK after a recent slump in vaccination rates.

This morning Mr Zahawi echoed these comments and reassured Brits that enough supplies were coming in to cater for first and second doses.

He added: "We have already been reserving second doses. You have seen the numbers tick up of second doses.

"And in March you will see that number increase even more."

This he said – is because more people will be being booked in for their second dose.

He added: "The NHS have got all the protocols in place to deliver that, as well as of course continuing to do the first dose."

Around 2.5 millions Brits a week have been receiving the first dose of the vaccine.

The vaccine list has been determined by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) and prioritised front line health workers and the elderly.

RAPID FALL

NHS chiefs say the jabs programme has been key to the rapid fall in infections, hospital admissions and deaths.

It was yesterday reported that Covid deaths in the UK plunged to their lowest level in 11 weeks with 144 more fatalities.

NHS England today reported 127 more deaths.

There has been 6,035 more infections – bringing the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 4,176,554.

This is the lowest number of daily positive cases since September 28.

 

Between February 21 and 27, there were 2,341 deaths – a drop of 32.3 per cent compared to the previous seven days.

Mr Johnson plans to speed up jabs for over-50s, with a completion target of April 15.

It means 98 per cent of those most likely to die, or be hospitalised, will be protected by then.

He will stand by his pledge to offer a second dose within 12 weeks of the first.

Experts however today warned that the Brazil variant – which has now been detected in the UK, could slow the UK's vaccine rollout and could make them "less potent".

Mr Zahawi said any community transmission of the variant would be identified "very, very quickly" through both regular PCR and lateral flow testing.

"We would pick up community transmission of this variant very, very rapidly, because we are able to genome sequence so quickly," he told the BBC.

Asked if it was known whether the unidentified person with the Manaus variant had travelled to the UK or contracted the virus here, he said: "We don't.

"Part of the reason why we want to locate them quickly is to understand more about them and their movements."

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