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Britain to give COVID-19 shots to key vaccine supply workers

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LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Britain on Tuesday said it would give COVID-19 shots to up to 2,000 people working in vaccine supply chains, after AstraZeneca requested protection for its workers trying to deliver an ambitious vaccine rollout programme.

AstraZeneca research chief Mene Pangalos last week said that COVID-19 outbreaks were hindering the company's vaccine workforce, and requested that they were prioritised to receive a shot.

"Highly trained workers who have been identified by the government as being irreplaceable and crucial to the delivery of vaccine supplies will be offered vaccines," the health ministry said in a statement.

"This will reduce the risk of an outbreak that would disrupt the immediate supply chain, which could have a significant impact on the largest vaccination programme in British history."

Eligible staff include those working for AstraZeneca and Pfizer involved in making the drug substance, the "fill and finish" of the vials, batch testing and logistics.

Britain is aiming to vaccinate up to 15 million high risk people with first doses of Pfizer or AstraZeneca's shot by mid-February. Latest figures show that nearly 4.3 million people have received initial doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by William James)