Covid vaccine drive gets £1.6billion to fight new mutant variants

THE COVID-19 vaccination drive has been given a £1.6billion injection in a bid to test new jabs agaisnt mutant variants.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak today announced the boost in funding for the jab programme.

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So far in the UK over 20.4 million Brits have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine with over 840,000 having had their second.

This afternoon Mr Sunak said coronavirus was "still doing damage to the economy".

Mr Sunak's budget is focused specifically on several themes which are outlined here.

These themes are set to include "support, vision, recovery and honesty".

Among pledges to extend the furlough scheme and a freeze on income tax, Mr Sunak revealed changes to other government priorities which have an impact on the health and wellbeing of the nation.

Push for jabs

There are currently two jabs being rolled out across the UK and many other versions on order.

Mr Sunak today to unveiled £1.6 billion of funding and as part of this push to get jabs rolled out to every adult in the UK by the end of July.

NHS chiefs say the jabs programme has been key to the rapid fall in infections, hospital admissions and deaths.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to speed up jabs for over-50s, with a completion target of April 15.

The funding will make sure enough jabs can be purchased and delivered in time.

Research for new variants

New variants mean more research needs to be done as to whether those vaccines already being rolled out are effective.

A further £33 million will be given to improve the ability to respond to new variants.

It comes after cases of both the South African and Brazilian variant were detected in the UK.

Matt Hancock yesterday said that it wasn't clear how effective vaccines would be against the Brazilian variant as they hadn't yet been studied against it.

He added that the variant had caused "challenges in the UK" and that experts were doing everything they could to stop the spread.

Plenty of choice

Mr Sunak has also given a £5 million grant given to create a so-called "library" of Covid jabs.

The research will also help establish if a third dose would be effective.

Both the Pfizer and Oxford jabs are already in circulation and a jab from Moderna could be available by next month.

Jabs from US firm Novavax, as well as vaccines from French company Valneva will be made in the UK.

What is the Budget?

THE Budget is when the government outlines its plans for tax hikes, cuts and things like changes to the minimum wage.

It's different to the Spending Review, which sets out how much public cash will go towards funding certain departments, devolved government's and services, such as the NHS.

The Budget is read out in the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It will be Rishi Sunak's second Budget as Chancellor.

Mr Sunak's first one in March last year has been dubbed the "coronavirus Budget" after it focused on supporting Brits financially through the crisis, rather than the government's "levelling up" agenda as promised in the 2019 general election.

Normally, the Budget is held once a year but the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic in 2020 saw Mr Sunak give a "mini-budget" in the Commons on July 8

Other jabs include the Janssen jab, owned by Johnson & Johnson which should be available later this year.

Mr Hancock on Monday night addressed the nation and hinted at the Chancellor's decision.

Speaking at a Downing Street conference he said: "As more of us are protected against the virus we can gradually replace the safety that comes from the restrictions that we have to impose with the safety that comes from the jab.

"Part of the funding will go to further vaccine testing and development to make sure we are as fast and effective in developing the next generation of Covid vaccines including vaccines against new variants as we were with the existing ones."

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