Britain has ordered more than 350 million doses of the Oxford University and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which will also be shared with Overseas Territories including Cayman, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday.
Johnson, in a statement in the UK Parliament on his administration’s COVID-19 winter plan, said the vaccine “developed with astonishing speed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is now one of three capable of delivering a period of immunity”.
The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported Monday that results from the final trial showed that the vaccine can protect 70.4% of people from becoming ill and up to 90% if a lower first dose is used.
As he welcomed the news on the vaccine’s progress, Johnson said,”We can take heart from today’s news, which has the makings of a wonderful British scientific achievement.”
“We don’t yet know when any will be ready and licensed, but we have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and over 350 million in total, more than enough for everyone in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories,” Johnson announced.
He said the UK National Health Service is preparing a nationwide immunisation programme, to be ready next month.
Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, at the recent Cayman Islands Tourism Association annual general meeting, said Cayman can expect to get doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from the UK in December.
He said while everyone in Cayman will be encouraged to get the shot, it will not be mandatory.
The Guardian reported that production of the vaccines has already begun, and 4 million doses have been supplied so far, “which cannot be used until the vaccine is licensed”.
“Importantly, Oxford/AstraZeneca have already shown that the vaccine works as well in older people as in younger groups and is safe. There are early indications it might also help stop transmission of the disease,” The Guardian report stated.
Johnson, in his statement Monday, also confirmed that national restrictions in England will end on 2 Dec. and will not be renewed.
“From next Wednesday, people will be able to leave their home for any purpose, and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the Rule of Six. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen,” he said.
On Monday the UK recorded 15,450 new COVID-19 cases, its lowest daily total for six weeks. It also recorded 206 COVID-19-related deaths.
Johnson said the UK will return to its regional tier COVID-19 system when the lockdown ends.
“As we work to suppress the virus with these local tiers, two scientific breakthroughs will ultimately make these restrictions obsolete. As soon as a vaccine is approved, we will dispense it as quickly as possible,” he said.
However, Johnson stated that given that this cannot be done immediately, “we will simultaneously use rapid turnaround testing, the lateral flow testing that gives results within 30 minutes, to identify those without symptoms so they can isolate and avoid transmission”.
The tests, he said, are beginning to be deployed in the NHS and in care homes in England.