THE OXFORD-ASTRAZENECA vaccine developed by a team of Irish-led researchers has been approved for use in the UK.
Work on the vaccine has been led by Professor Adrian Hill, an Irish vaccinologist and the director of the Jenner Institute, which designs and develops vaccines for infectious diseases.
The first doses of the new vaccine will be administered from Monday.
With the UK purchasing enough doses to vaccinate 50 million people on top of the full order of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, there should now be enough to administer doses to the entire country.
It comes as case numbers continue to rise sharply in the UK following the emergence of a new strain of the potentially deadly virus.
Much of the country has already been placed under significant lockdown restrictions with more expected to follow in the coming days.
Prof Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, described the approval of the vaccine as an “astonishing achievement” in terms of the scientific and clinical research work conducted.
Despite this, he warned BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there was still “more work to do” in the fight against the virus, adding “it’s not over yet.”
"Our colleagues in hospital are facing some real horrors caused by this virus. The next steps are critical," he said.
On Tuesday, December 29, the UK recorded a record 53,135 cases of Covid-19 in what represents the highest single day rise since mass testing began.
A total of 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also reported.
With the arrival of this latest vaccine, senior health figures are hopeful anywhere up to two million people could be vaccination every week in the UK over the coming months.
British Medical Association GP leader Dr Richard Vautrey says it as "certainly be possible" provided supplies are well maintained.
To date, more than 600,000 people across the UK have already received the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, including Margaret Keenan from Northern Ireland.