Boris Johnson press conference today: PM to address Oxford vaccine roll out in GPs

7 January 2021, 10:45 | Updated: 7 January 2021, 17:31

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold a press conference later today on the day the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine was rolled out to GPs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street coronavirus press briefing today at around 5pm.

He will be joined by the head of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, and Brigadier Phil Prosser, who is in charge of the military’s efforts towards the vaccine rollout.

It comes as GP surgeries across England began administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 jabs on Thursday.

Mr Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that the UK is in "a race to vaccinate the vulnerable faster than the virus can reach them".

With the Oxford drug now joining the Pfizer shot in wider circulation, the UK has taken a considerable step forward in its fight against coronavirus.

Read more: Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine rolled out to GPs

Read more: UK records 62,322 new Covid cases and 1,041 more deaths

However, on Wednesday the country recorded a further 1,041 Covid-related deaths - the highest reported figure in a single day - and another 62,322 infections - likewise, a daily record-high.

Record numbers of patients are also currently in hospital with Covid, with a further 3,500 admitted in England on Monday.

On Twitter, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was "delighted" care home residents will begin receiving their first Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination this week.

He said: "This will ensure the most vulnerable are protected and will save tens of thousands of lives."

Elsewhere, nearly 20,000 second doses of Covid vaccines were administered between 29 December and 3 January, NHS England said.

Read more: Boris Johnson: UK in final 'sprint' to defeat coronavirus

Read more: Seven mass Covid vaccination hubs to open across UK next week

Some 19,981 follow-up Pfizer jabs were given as of Sunday, which was before the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. All vaccinations given before 29 December were of first doses.

Overall, 308,541 people received a jab in the week ending Sunday 3 January, taking the total number vaccinated in England since the rollout began to 1,112,866.

Of those, 661,224 (60 per cent) were given to people aged 80 or over, the health service said.

It is hoped that more than 700 sites will be delivering vaccines by the end of the week, with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine easier to administer given it can be stored at fridge temperatures, unlike the Pfizer jab which requires storage at minus 70C.

Seven mass vaccination centres will open next week in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi admitted the target of vaccinating around 14 million people in the highest priority groups - including the elderly, those with clinical needs, care home residents and staff as well as frontline NHS workers - by February 15 was "stretching".

Some 1.3 million people have already received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the bid to increase the speed of inoculations will see the approval period needed for Covid vaccine batches slashed from 20 days to just four.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the body responsible for the checks, is also set to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the programme, the paper reported.

Ministers have already decided, in a move queried by the World Health Organisation (WHO), to administer the first jab to as many priority patients as possible by delaying a second shot.

The second jab will be given up to 12 weeks later to prevent current supplies from being held back. In the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine, people received a follow-up shot 21 days after the first.

But in the Oxford University vaccine study, the timetable for a second vaccine was much more varied, with many not getting a second jab for several weeks.

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