As the New Year fast approaches, the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that 2021 will be “a year of renewal” due in large part to the imminent rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Hancock, writing in The Telegraph on Wednesday, made the end-of-year message of “hope and cheer” on the same day as the UK approved the vaccine that only needs to be stored at a normal refrigerator temperature, rather than the super-cold storage that the already-approved Pfizer vaccine requires.
“The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan,” Hancock said, and will roll the new vaccine out “far and wide across the UK, as quickly as we receive it.”
“And because the clinical advice says people get protection after the first dose, we can accelerate this rollout even further,” he said.
He also told the BBC’s “Breakfast” programme that “the hospitals across the country are ready.”
“But we can also use this vaccine in primary care, we can take it to care homes,” he said.
“It just needs normal fridge temperature, rather than the minus 70 super-cold storage that the Pfizer vaccine requires, so we’ll get going on this from Monday,” he added.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine approval was also hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “a triumph for British science” and as “truly fantastic news.”
“We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible,” he wrote on Twitter.
Hancock said in a video message that he was “so happy that we can end 2020 with such a moment of hope.”
THANK YOU to all those involved
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 30, 2020
He said, “We’ve always known a vaccine is the exit route from this pandemic.”
“I am absolutely thrilled that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been authorised for use,” he said.
‘Pre-Ordered 100 Million Doses’
He called it a “real British success story” and said because the easy-to-store, low-cost vaccine “will save lives everywhere,” the approval was a “moment of cheer for the whole nation and indeed the whole world.”
“We’ve spent months preparing for this moment,” he said.
“We’ve pre-ordered 100 million doses and from Monday [Jan. 4] we will deploy it far and wide according to clinical need, not ability to pay,” he added.
However, Hancock tempered his message of the “freedom within our grasp” with a warning of “tough winter weeks ahead.”
While the “vital work rolling out the vaccine takes place,” we should “take comfort in the fact that help is on its way” but “all do our bit following the rules that keep the virus at bay,” he said.
He added that “science has delivered to give us all a brighter future” and that going forward Britain will “look at what’s gone right during this crisis, and drive these reforms even harder, such as better treatments and improved use of technology.”
Vaccination Not Mandatory
Despite Hancock citing vaccines as the only gateway to freedom from the increasingly stringent curbs put in place to slow the spread of the CCP virus, vaccination is not mandatory in the UK, including for health and social care staff.
Following the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine earlier this month, Johnson said compulsory vaccination was “no part of our culture or our ambition in this country” and Hancock told the BBC in November that the government was “not proposing to make this [vaccination] compulsory.”
He said this was “not least because … the vast majority of people are going to want to have it,” and that the UK has “one of the highest enthusiasms for taking a vaccine out of all countries in the world.”
In early December, however, a leader of the sector in England said potentially up to 40 percent of care home workers won’t get inoculated, and an article published by trade magazine Community Care said that 41 percent of 300 staff who participated in a snapshot survey said they would not take a vaccine, citing reasons including a lack of information about side effects and the duration of immunity.
Nonetheless, Hancock called on Britain to “celebrate [the New Year] safely at home … safe in the knowledge that help is on its way, and that there are better times ahead in 2021.”
Alexander Zhang and Lily Zhou contributed to this report.