AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine is set to begin rollout in the UK, following approval by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on 30 December.

In a statement released today, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced that over half a million doses of the vaccine will become available today. In addition, ‘tens of millions’ further doses are expected to be delivered in the coming weeks and months.

The vaccine, which can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures of between +2°C - +8°C, will be distributed to care homes and additional locations in the UK.

It will be deployed through hospital hubs for NHS and care staff and older patients, as well as via local community services, including GP practices.

The vaccine will also be distributed to vaccination centres across the country – over 730 vaccination sites have been established across the UK, with hundreds more expected to open this week, according to the DHSC.

“I am delighted that today we are rolling out the Oxford vaccine – a testament to British science. 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,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“Through its vaccine delivery plan the NHS is doing everything it can to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible and we will rapidly accelerate our vaccination programme,” he added.

On the basis of recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the vaccine will first go to priority groups including care home residents and staff, individuals over the age of 80 years, health and care workers, after which the shot will be offered to the rest of the population in order of age and risk.