Britain on Monday took another giant step in the fight against COVID-19, ramping up its immunization program by giving the first shots in the world from the vaccine created by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, was the first to get the new vaccine, administered by the chief nurse at Oxford University Hospital. Pinker said he was so pleased and that he can "now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife, Shirley, later this year," per the AP. Since Dec. 8, Britain's National Health Service has been using a vaccine made by Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech to inoculate health care workers and nursing home residents and staff. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine boosts that arsenal and is cheaper and easier to use, as it doesn't require the super-cold storage needed by the Pfizer vaccine.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was being administered at a small number of UK hospitals for the first few days so authorities can watch for any adverse reactions. But hundreds of new vaccination sites—at both hospitals and local doctors' offices—will launch this week, joining the more than 700 already in operation, NHS England says. In a shift from practices in the US and elsewhere, Britain now plans to give people second doses of both vaccines within 12 weeks of the first shot rather than within 21 days, to accelerate immunizations across as many people as quickly as possible. The UK is in the midst of an acute outbreak, recording more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day over the past six days. On Sunday, it notched up another 54,990 cases and 454 more virus-related deaths to take its confirmed pandemic death toll total to 75,024, one of the worst in Europe.
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