The health department’s hopes of having dozens of politicians receive early Covid-19 vaccinations to shore up public confidence in the jab have been dealt a blow after the medicines regulator turned down its request to include them in the first phase of the rollout aimed at health-care workers.

The government launched its national Covid-19 vaccination drive on Wednesday, offering health-care workers the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) shot in a tightly controlled research setting in order to get around the fact that the product is not yet commercially available...

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