Tony Blair: UK needs up to five million Covid-19 vaccines a week

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ony Blair has said the entire country needs to be placed under a ramped-up Covid-19 vaccination programme with up to five million jabs a week. His comments on Sunday come as the NHS prepares to roll out the newly approved Oxford University and AstraZeneca jab, with 530,000 doses available for distribution across the UK from Monday. Hundreds of new vaccination sites are due to be up and running this week as the NHS ramps up its coronavirus immunisation programme.

Newly confirmed coronavirus cases were higher than 50,000 for the fifth day in a row when UK figures were released on Saturday, with a record-high of 57,725 lab-confirmed cases and another 445 deaths within 28 days of a positive test. Mr Blair told Times Radio: “Because of this new variant, we need to change our strategy completely in my view. “Not only Pfizer and AstraZeneca but possibly with the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well coming on stream.

“We should be aiming to get up to three, four, five million a week.

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Tony Blair says a plan is needed to get the UK to 5million jabs a week

/ AFP via Getty Images )

“We need to get the entire country under a vaccination programme very, very fast because right now as a result of this new variant, we’ve got a choice between severe lockdown or vaccination. “But there isn’t another choice.” Mr Blair said closing schools is a “disaster” for children, particularly the poorest.

But he could not see how they could be kept open. He added: “On the one hand, they’re not getting educated. “But it’s also completely understandable that teachers and parents say, not because they think their children… the risk to children is very, very small, it’s the risk to transmission rates and it’s the risk to teachers and parents, and therefore to those that their parents mix with.

“So, for all of those reasons, it just emphasises yet again why it’s so important to get vaccination under way.” Mr Blair added: “Unless there’s a step-change of a radical nature in the vaccination programme, it’s very difficult to see how you’re going to keep schools open.

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“If I was the prime minister right now I would be saying to the team in Downing Street, ‘I need you to give me a plan to get this up to five million (vaccinations) a week.” Boris Johnson has said parents should send primary-age children back to schools that are open this week, as he hinted at tougher coronavirus measures for England.

The Prime Minister told the BBC’s Andrew Marr he has “no doubt” that classrooms are safe and that the risk to young people was “very, very small” amid calls from teaching unions to close all schools for the next two weeks. Second doses of either the Oxford University vaccine or the Pfizer/BioNTech jab currently being distributed will now take place within 12 weeks rather than the 21 days that was initially planned with the latter, following a change in guidance which aims to accelerate immunisation. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said this dosing regimen will “save the most lives and avoid the most hospital admissions”.

He said: “If a family has two elderly grandparents and there are two vaccines available, it is better to give both 89 per cent protection than to give one 95 per cent protection with two quick doses, and the other grandparent no protection at all.

“The virus is unfortunately spreading fast, and this is a race against time.

“My mum, as well as you or your older loved ones, may be affected by this decision, but it is still the right thing to do for the nation as a whole.”

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