France under fire for slow vaccine rollouts

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The campaign to vanquish the coronavirus is picking up speed, with Britain beginning to dispense the second vaccine in its arsenal today.

But authorities in France and elsewhere in Europe are coming under fire for slow rollouts and delays.

In the U.S., meanwhile, government officials reported that vaccinations have accelerated markedly after a sluggish start. Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said over the weekend that 1.5 million shots were administered in 72 hours, bringing the total over the past three weeks to about 4 million.

Britain became the first nation to start using the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, ramping up its nationwide inoculation campaign amid soaring infection rates blamed on a new and seemingly more contagious variant of the virus.

Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old dialysis patient, received the first shot at Oxford University Hospital, saying in a statement: “I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary.”

Britain’s vaccination programme began December 8 with the shot developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

The country has recorded more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day over the past six days, and deaths have climbed past 75,000, one of the worst tolls in Europe.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a wave of near-lockdowns the weekend before Christmas and warned yesterday that “tough, tough” weeks lie ahead and that tighter restrictions were coming into force: “If you look at the numbers, there’s no question we will have to take tougher measures.”

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