Last reviewed 5 January 2021

The Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK by the MHRA, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has issued updated advice recommending that as many people as possible in high-risk groups be given their first vaccine dose.

The UK Government has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the “Oxford” vaccine, and Health Secre-tary Matt Hancock said care home residents will be included in the first rollout of the programme startng from 4 January 2021.

The Government has said GPs must ensure they vaccinate every care home resident in their local area by the end of January.

But with just over 500,000 doses available to use this week, concerns have been raised that there may be a bottleneck in the system. There are more than 25 million people in the nine priority groups identified so far, including all those over 50 and younger adults with health conditions as well as frontline health and care staff.

British Medical Association (BMA) Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “While this vaccine may not have the same logistical hurdles as those associated with the Pfizer jab, the task of vaccinating such large numbers of patients in a short space of time is a huge challenge.”

The BMA said it is now crucial that supplies of this vaccine are given to as many GP practice sites and hospital hubs as possible and that this happens as quickly as possible so that vaccination en masse can commence. The association said GP vaccination sites and hospital hubs should be given "investment and support" to accelerate the roll out and GPs should be given the flexibility to "reprioritise other services" to focus on the task.

Following new JCVI guidance, the four UK chief medical officers (CMOs) said that in order to vaccinate as many people as possible, most individuals would receive their second dose towards the end of a 12-week period. They hope that by delaying second jabs and vaccinating greater numbers with the first vaccine dose, severe illness and pressure on the NHS would be reduced.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that, apart from those people who had an appointment for their second dose last week, the NHS would be contacting patients who have already been vaccinated to rearrange second appointments in line with the new timeframes. This means hundreds of thousands of patients who have already had their first injection will need to be contacted as the programme shifts its focus.

NHS England Medical Director for Primary Care Dr Nikki Kanani promised there would be a significant expansion of the vaccination programme in the coming weeks.