• Flynn Devine

Vaccines in the UK: Covid and confusion

The UK's fight against Covid 19 is fully underway, as it becomes the first nation to approve mass vaccination and the government aims to have millions immunised in a matter of months. But with so much changing news when it comes to the pandemic, it can be easy to loose track, and there seems to be a general sense of public confusion around which vaccines are currently in circulation and if there are actually any differences between them.

So here's a quick breakdown of the current vaccine situation in the UK.

The Issue

On the 8th January 2021, the third vaccine for use in the battle against Covid-19 was given approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The Moderna vaccine came into service just as the UK entered another full lockdown, with no certain end date in sight.

This vaccination approval brings more hope to many, that soon life can return to some kind of normal and people can once again see their friends and loved ones. But when this might be is still unclear, as new strains of this Virus have ravaged much of the nation with their more transmittable nature.

As I write this piece, another strain has been detected in the UK, which provides fresh concerns. Every new strain comes with new questions and more required research to see if/how it might change our route towards recovery. So far, there is no indication that any new strains cause a more severe illness, or that any of these vaccines would be less effective against them. However, they are showing to be up to 70% more transmittable, hence the returning lockdown restrictions being imposed upon the people of the UK.

The History

Alongside this latest approval, there are two other vaccines currently being used in the UK: Pfizer/BioNTech and The Oxford-AstraZeneca, the latter of which came out of research at the University of Oxford here in the UK.

The Pfizer/BioNTech was the first to be approved, back in 2020, but has also received the most criticism of the three. Whilst it provides up to 95% immunity to the disease, following its two doses, it requires storage at temperatures of -70 degrees, generating large logistical issues. The other two vaccines require less extreme temperatures and therefore provide an easier challenge for those administrating it.

The latest criticism to be levelled against the UK government, among a myriad of others during this crisis, is the extension of time between doses. All three of these vaccines require two doses to become fully effective against the virus. Number 10 have extended the time before the second required dose from the original three weeks, to three months. This is based on the government strategy prioritising more first doses, in order to provide some level of immunity to more people, before administering the required second dose.

Their strategy is based on research demonstrating "both [vaccines] (same for third) offer considerable protection after a single dose", but there is criticism. The unknown nature of virus, and therefore the bodies immune response, has some questioning whether this move could speed up the process, or put millions at risk.

The government has generated a priority list outlining who will receive the vaccine first, with 2,371,407 of the most vulnerable already receiving the vaccine by the end of last week. This strategy has itself received criticism, some believing groups, for example teacher, who are not currently prioritised, should be.

The International Dimension

The struggle with this disease is by no means a British based phenomenon. Every country has been affected by the virus and almost every nation of the world is now on their way to getting vaccines approved and administered to their population. Nations have varying strategies upon how to roll out the vaccine and who to give it to first, but the race is undoubtedly on.


This vaccination effort is by no means over and is not yet substantially changing the lives of so many who still face face restrictions and the myriad of hardships that come with it. But it's a start.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, now it is simply a case of how quickly we reach it and trying to limit the number of people lost along the way.