THE FIRST doses of the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine are set to be administered in six hospital trusts today, with some doses of the new vaccine available in Lancashire.

The vaccine will be administered at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where it was developed, as well as five other hospital trusts – one in Lancashire, two in London, and others in Sussex and Warwickshire.

Just over half a million doses of the newly approved vaccine will be available today, with vulnerable groups already identified as the priority for immunisation.

Jabs will be delivered at some 730 vaccination sites already established across the UK, with others opening this week to take the total to more than 1,000, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The bulk of supplies will then be sent to hundreds of GP-led services and care homes later in the week for wider rollout, according to DHSC.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus and I hope it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight.”

He urged everyone to continue to follow the coronavirus restrictions while the vaccination programme is under way to “keep cases down and protect our loved ones”.

The UK has secured 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as part of its contract, enough for most of the population.

While some 530,000 doses are to be available from Monday, DHSC said that tens of millions more are to be delivered in the coming weeks and months once batches have been quality checked.

It comes almost a month after rollout of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech began, with more than one million people having now received their first dose.

Second doses of either vaccine will now take place within 12 weeks rather than the 21 days that was initially planned with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, following a change in guidance which aims to accelerate immunisation.

This has been defended by the UK’s four chief medical officers following criticism, including from the British Medical Association (BMA).

At 7.30 am dialysis patient Brian Pinker, who describes himself as Oxford born and bred, became the very first person to be vaccinated by the hospital’s chief nurse and in doing so chalking up another world first for the NHS and major milestone in the phased vaccination programme.

Brian, aged 82, a retired maintenance manager who has been having dialysis for kidney disease at the hospital for a number of years, was pleased to be getting protection against the virus giving him peace of mind as he continues to receive treatment and is now looking forward to celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary with wife Shirley in February.

He said: “I am so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford. The nurses, doctors and staff today have all been brilliant and I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley later this year.”