MORE than half a million Brits have received a Covid jab as the NHS races to protect the nation at record pace.
Boris Johnson last night celebrated the major milestone, saying the progress should give the nation “hope and confidence”.
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The UK was the first in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — with Maggie Keenan, 91, among the first to get it on December 8.
It is now being offered by hundreds of GP surgeries and hospitals, with millions of people due to get it by the end of the year.
Meanwhile the European Medicines Agency only approved the jab yesterday — three weeks after the UK.
The PM told a Downing Street briefing: “The UK is the first country to have distributed a clinically approved vaccine and it has now gone into the arms of 500,000 people across the country.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted over Union Flag: “Such good news . . . We’re accelerating the vaccination programme.
“We must all do all we can to suppress this virus to protect our NHS & save lives.”
RETURN TO NORMALITY
Government sources now hope the UK regulator will approve the Oxford University-developed vaccine just days after Christmas.
It is easier to distribute and will allow the NHS to accelerate the mass vaccination programme.
Patients will still need a second jab three weeks after the first.
The Department of Health said: “Vaccines, when combined with effective treatments, will form a vital part in making Covid-19 a manageable disease, hopefully allowing us to return to normality in the future.”
Despite fears of shortages, the Government said there has been a “regular and steady” supply of jabs into the country and there is sufficient to meet current demand.
The majority of this year’s supply is already in the country.
However The Sun can reveal hundreds of doses are being binned every day amid confusion over who can get jabs.
Some doctors say they cannot find enough patients in the target age group while others claim they have been told they cannot use any vaccines left over.
The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -70C and batches have to be used with five days of being removed from storage.
First in line for the injections are care home residents and their carers, patients over 80 and NHS staff.
NHS England’s contract with GPs says they can give jabs to people outside those groups if there are “exceptional circumstances” and “resources would otherwise have been wasted”.
But some GPs say that — despite being given more doses than they have patients over 80 — health officials have told them they cannot offer the vaccine to younger patients.
Meanwhile some patients are being offered the jab by their hospital and GP on the same day, increasing the number of no-show appointments.
'THROWING IT IN THE BIN'
One doctor said he had disposed of scores of doses in the last two days alone.
A whistleblower medic said: “We were the first country in the world to get the vaccine and now we’re actually throwing it in the bin.”
One doctor wrote in a WhatsApp group: “Ludicrous not to be allowed to give to over 75s if leftovers, makes no sense — almost criminal as over 75s may well die of this.”
Staff at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough were said to have plucked people from the car park to use up their surplus.
Other problems have included batches not being delivered, or GPs not having enough staff to cope.
Last night Dr Clare Gerada, former chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It would be a tragedy if a single dose of the Covid vaccine went to waste.”
Prof Martin Marshall, of the Royal College of GPs, said: “There are bound to be teething problems when delivering a completely new vaccine at this scale and speed.
“It’s important that, where appropriate, any vaccine wastage is included in the data so that we can see the scale of this issue and address it.”
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