Matt Hancock announcement: Britain hits huge vaccine milestone while EU rollout in crisis

Matt Hancock assures AstraZeneca vaccine jab is safe

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All over-50s in England are now able to get an appointment for a coronavirus jab on the NHS booking system. It means the final group in phase one of the inoculation programme can get a vaccine.

Once all over-50s and those clinically vulnerable have built up immunity, coronavirus deaths are expected to drop by 99 percent.

The Government has set the target of April 15 for giving the first jab to all those in priority group one, but at the current pace of rollout the target could be hit as soon as the end of next week.

Ahead of tonight’s 5pm briefing, the Health Secretary said: “I’m delighted we are now expanding the rollout and inviting those aged-50 and over to book their jab.

“I’m determined no one should miss out on the chance to protect themselves and urge everyone who is eligible to come forward.”

Mr Hancock will also issue a plea for everyone who is offered a jab to step forward and take it.

Multiple countries in the EU suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this week after concerns of blood clots in some people who had received the jab.

However, AstraZeneca, the European Medicines Agency, and the World Health Organisation have all insisted there is no causal link between the vaccine and the blood clots.

Thee are fears the suspension of the vaccine risks undermining confidence in the jab.

Mr Hancock last night said: “The Oxford-AstraZeneca is safe.

“We know that 10 million people have had it in this country.

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“That’s what the British regulator says, but also the World Health Organisation and even the European regulator.

“We keep the effects of these vaccines under review all the time and we know that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is saving lives in the UK right now.

“So if you get the call, get the jab.”

While Britain’s vaccine rollout has been hailed a success across the world, the EU’s immunisation programme has been criticised for being slow and lethargic.

Just nine percent of adults in the EU have had a first Covid jab compared to 47 percent in the UK.

The EU27 are also sitting on huge stockpiles of unused jabs.

Figures released on Monday by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control indicate over 15 million vaccines doses were currently unused.

After suggestions by Emmanuel Macron in February that the AstraZeneca jab was “quasi-ineffective” in older people, and concerns this week about links to blood clots, there has been a problem of vaccine hesitancy on the continent.

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