Almost 29 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine – part of the biggest inoculation programme the country has ever launched.

In a race against a faster-spreading variant of the virus, ministers have pinned their hopes of easing a third national lockdown on vaccinating as many adults as possible by summer.

But vaccine supply issues and have continued to make the rollout bumpy.

Who can get a vaccine now?

The UK government aims to offer a first vaccine dose to about 32 million people in nine priority groups by 15 April.

The programme in England is now inviting those aged 50 and above to book appointments after the first four groups – those aged 70 and over, care home residents, healthcare workers and people required to shield – were offered a jab by mid-February.

These groups account for 88% of deaths so far.

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The over 55s in Scotland, the over 50s in Northern Ireland and the over 50s in Wales have been asked to book appointments.

From spring, the government then plans to begin vaccinating the rest of the adult population in age order, another 21 million people.

People in their 40s will be next, once the current phase is completed.

Almost 29 million people have had a first vaccine dose and more than 2.7 million have had a second.

The number of first doses administered each day is now averaging about 460,000 after a drop in late February and early March.

The government has often described vaccine supplies as “lumpy” and the UK is expected to see a reduction in doses available during April.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs last week the drop had been caused by the need to re-test the stability of 1.7 million doses as well as a delay in the scheduled arrival of jabs from the Serum Institute of India.

The NHS is urging anyone who currently qualifies for a jab but has not had a first dose to book an appointment by 29 March.

Despite the expected dip in supplies next month, the country is still on track to offer a first dose to everyone aged 50 and over by the end of April, and to all adults by the end of July, Mr Hancock has said.

The campaign to reach as many people as quickly as possible was boosted by a shift in policy in early January – to prioritise the first dose of a vaccine, with a second dose up to 12 weeks later, a bigger gap than originally planned.

The progress made in the UK so far means the country continues to be among those with the highest vaccination rates globally.

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Has the rollout been even across all areas?

There continues to be some regional variation in the vaccine programme.

While overall England has vaccinated 87% of those aged 50 and above, the South West has reached 90% of people in the same age group and London has reached 79%.

In Scotland, 82% of the over 50s have had at least one jab, while Wales has reached 77% and Northern Ireland 53%.

When looking at all those aged 18 and above, England, Scotland and Wales have vaccinated more than half of adults with the first dose. Northern Ireland is close to the half-way mark.

Wales has also administered the second dose to 15% of adults, driven by the prioritisation of vaccines to those working in the health and care sectors.

There have also been disparities between ethnic groups and poorer and wealthier areas.

Analysis of NHS records by the OpenSAFELY group – a collaboration between Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – shows that black people were the least likely to have received a vaccine among four of the older age groups.

The study was based on more than 20 million patient records in England and covers people not living in care homes. Areas of London are under-represented in the data.

In addition, 71% of those aged between 60-64 in the poorest areas had been given a vaccine by 18 March compared with 85% in the most affluent areas.

Where are the vaccines coming from?

The UK is currently receiving doses of two vaccines approved by the medicine regulator.

The Pfizer-BioNTech jab – the first to be given the green light in December – is being imported from Puurs, Belgium.

A second vaccine, from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, is being made in Britain by two biotech companies: Oxford BioMedica, based in Oxford; and Cobra Biologics, based at Keele Science Park, Staffs.

Another company, Wockhardt, based in Wrexham, fills the vials and packages them for use.

Further doses are expected to come from the Serum Institute of India and the Halix plant in the Dutch city of Leiden.

Supplies of a third vaccine to be approved, made by US company Moderna, will come from Europe and are expected in the next few weeks.

The UK is also lined up to receive at least three other vaccines if they are approved for use.

A jab manufactured by US firm Novavax will be made in Stockton-on-Tees in north-east England, while another by French company Valneva will be made in Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland.

The third, by Belgian firm Janssen, owned by Johnson & Johnson, should also be available later this year.

How will people be vaccinated?

People will be vaccinated in three main ways, at:

  • Local GP practices and community pharmacies
  • Hospital hubs
  • Major vaccination sites across the country

The government has urged the public to “play their part” in supporting “the largest vaccination programme in British history”, including helping people attend their appointments.

Some vaccine centres will close temporarily in April as supply shortages kick in, while others will stop taking bookings for first dose appointments.

Is there enough vaccine?

The UK has ordered more than 400 million doses of seven of the most promising vaccines.

Three have so far been approved for use: Oxford-AstraZeneca; Pfizer-BioNTech; and Moderna.

The UK government has also announced an eighth deal with biopharmaceutical company CureVac to develop vaccines against future variants.

It has placed an initial order for 50 million doses to be delivered later this year – if they are required.

But there have been a number of challenges in what is called the vaccine “supply chain” – the logistics of how the jab gets from manufacturers to people.

Getting enough supplies, checking those supplies are up to scratch and transporting vaccines according to their requirements have all thrown up difficulties.

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