By James Gallagher and Nick Triggle
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday amid rising coronavirus cases.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
This will cover the entire population when combined with the full order of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
It comes as millions of more people in England are expected to be placed under the toughest tier four restrictions.
On Tuesday, 53,135 new Covid cases were recorded in the UK – the highest single-day rise since mass testing began – as well as 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
And England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty praised the “considerable collective effort that has brought us to this point”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said it marked a “significant moment” in the fight against the virus, adding that “2021 can be a year of hope and recovery because we can see our way out of the pandemic”.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was designed in the first months of 2020, tested on the first volunteer in April, and has since been through large-scale clinical trials involving thousands of people.
It is the second jab to be approved in the UK after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given the go-ahead in December.
Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, which needs ultra cold storage at -70C, the Oxford-AstraZeneca can be stored in a standard fridge so will be easier to deliver to care homes and GP surgeries.
AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the company will “progressively ramp up” the vaccination programme, and will be able to deliver up to two million doses a week.
More than 600,000 people in the UK have been vaccinated since Margaret Keenan became the first in the world to be given it outside of a clinical trial.