Britain’s Department of Health confirmed on Sunday that the UK’s medicine regulator the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) requires time to carry out its review of the data of the Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZN) coronavirus vaccine.
It comes after the Sunday Telegraph reported that the COVID-19 vaccine would be rolled out across the country from 4 January under plans being drawn up by ministers.
The newspaper said that some two million people will receive their first dose of either the Oxford vaccine or the Pfizer (PFE) one within a fortnight.
It was also reportedly that mass vaccination centres at conference venues and sports stadiums are primed to launch in the second week of next month, provided MHRA approves the vaccine.
A health department spokeswoman said: "We must now give the MHRA the time to carry out its important work and we must wait for its advice.”
The NHS is to give top priority to vaccinating those aged 80 and above. Frontline healthcare workers, care home staff and residents will also be among those first in line.
The UK government has ordered 100 million jabs of the Oxford vaccine, with 40 million due to be rolled out by March next year.
On Saturday night, Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, said that its vaccine is as effective as the ones developed by Pfizer and Moderna (MRNA).
He told the Sunday Times: “We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else. I can’t tell you more because we will publish at some point.”
The UK recorded 210 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, down from 570 the day before, while cases rose 1,968 to 34,693, the government said.
The UK has recorded a total death toll of 70,405 as of yesterday, defined as those dying within 28 days of a positive test. Under this measure, it is the world’s sixth largest toll, after the United States, Brazil, India, Mexico and Italy.
The latest R number in Britain is estimated at 1.1 to 1.3.
Watch: Sunak: Billions of pounds provided for vaccine rollout