Matt Hancock Has Said The UK Can "Get Out Of This By Spring" After The Oxford Vaccine Was Approved
The Health Secretary has said the first doses of the newly approved vaccine will be given on Monday amid a surge in new coronavirus cases.
It comes after the UK's drug watchdog gave emergency authorisation for the new coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca to be rolled out to patients immediately.
Results from clinial trials show the latest vaccine offering is up to 90% effective in preventing Covid-19, with test data showing it was 100% effective in stopping severe illness caused by the virus.
The UK has already purchased 100 million doses of the new vaccine, enough for 50 million people, and it comes in addition to the stocks of the Pfizer vaccine which will cover around 20 million Brits.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the approval of this second jab would mean there were now enough vaccines on order to cover the entire population of the UK.
The decision comes amid a major surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations in the UK, with 53,135 new cases recorded in the UK on Tuesday - the highest daily total since the beginning of the mass testing programme.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hancock said the approval of the latest jab would offer the country a "route out" of the pandemic as he urged people to "hold their nerve" over the coming weeks.
"The rollout will start on January 4 and will really accelerate into the first few weeks of next year," he said.
"The NHS stands ready to deploy at the sort of pace that is needed to help us get out of this pandemic by Spring.
"The NHS will deliver the vaccine into people's arms as fast as it can be produced.
"I'm also now with this approval this morning highly confident that we can get enough vulnerable people vaccinated by the Spring that we can now see our route out of this pandemic."
He added: "We also know all of us now that there's a route out of this and the vaccine provides that route out, we've just got to all hold our nerve over the weeks to come until the vaccine can make us all safe.".
Despite refusing to put a number on the amount of people who would be vaccinated in the new year, Mr Hancock said the Oxford jab, which does not require complex storage requirements, would be easier to access for GPs and care homes.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "It is truly fantastic news - and a triumph for British science - that the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for us.
"We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible."
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: "Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible."