Boris Johnson: UK is 'front of the pack' for Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine

9 November 2020, 17:16 | Updated: 9 November 2020, 18:14

Johnson discusses vaccine breakthrough

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The UK is 'front of the pack' for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine if it proves a success, Boris Johnson has said.

The Prime Minister said the UK stands to get 40 millions doses of the vaccine if it is approved for use in the coming weeks.

The vaccine would, at first, be able to cover at least one third of the UK population, with frontline health workers and the most vulnerable first in line.

"The Joint Commission on Vaccination and Immunisation is looking at a range of different types of vaccine to work out the most effective ways to protect as many people as possible," Mr Johnson said.

Two doses of the vaccine would be required, Deputy Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Jonathan Van-Tam added, and people would have to wait at least two weeks after the second injection for it to full effect.

Read more: Vaccine breakthrough: Pfizer's Covid-19 drug '90% effective'

Read more: Pfizer vaccine hailed as 'watershed moment' by scientists

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, he confirmed that more details about who would be prioritised for the vaccine will be published "in due course".

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said age "is the biggest priority" for patients who most need the vaccines.

Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine ‘90% effective in preventing the disease’

But he warned that if the vaccine is approved it would not be enough to suppress the ongoing second wave.

"Right now the message is 'stand fast' rather than get too overexcited about where we are," he added.

"Frankly, we're in the middle of the second wave, and I don't see the vaccine making any difference for the wave we are now in," he said.

"I'm hopeful that it may prevent future waves, but this one we have to battle through to the end without a vaccine."

Read more: When will the Covid-19 vaccine be available and who would get it first?

Read more: UK and global markets surge following Covid vaccine breakthrough

He added that there was reason to be optimistic about the future, however, and that a working vaccine would make a "significant different" to the impact Covid-19 had on hospitals and wider society.

The Prime Minister added he was "buoyantly optimistic" about the vaccine but warned the public should not "run away" with the good news and assume the pandemic will be over in the near future.

Jonathan Van Tam says he is 'hopeful for vaccine by Christmas'

Asked about concerns over uptake due to anti-vaxx campaigners, Mr Johnson said the arguments against vaccines "holds no water" and dismissed the idea it could harm people.

"I don't propose we give it any extra air-time", the Deputy CMO said in a dig at campaigners.

Any Covid-19 vaccine has gone through rigorous trials, including health and safety, and has to be approved by an independent board.

Professor Van-Tam said it was not known whether the vaccine would prevent transmission of coronavirus.

Read more: 'Positive signs' in Wales following firebreak lockdown, says Mark Drakeford

Read more: Europe locks down as coronavirus infections and deaths soar

He added that "the one thing we know about these vaccines at the moment is that they will prevent illness" from Covid-19 as diagnosed by a PCR test.

"We do not know yet if these vaccines will prevent asymptomatic infection.

"And therefore we do not know if these vaccines will prevent virus shedding, and therefore have an effect on community transmission."

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