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Matt Hancock hails approval of vaccine on LBC, saying 'help is on its way'
2 December 2020, 08:10 | Updated: 2 December 2020, 12:24
Matt Hancock has hailed the arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine which will be rolled out from next week.
Talking on LBC, the health secretary declared that "help is on its way" and confirmed that jabs will begin to be offered mostly to hospital patients before Christmas.
"The majority of this will be rolled out from the New Year," he added, "but the fact that, instead of conversations saying 'if a vaccine is approved' we can now say 'as we roll it out'."
Mr Hancock confirmed that over 800,000 doses of the drug are ready to come to the UK from a factory in Belgium.
"They couldn't be moved from the factory until this approval had taken place," he explained.
"They'll be brought over now and that's why we'll be ready from the start of next week."
Around 50 hospitals in England will be first to receive the jab as well as others in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Asked how many people could be vaccinated by the end of the year, the health secretary said it "all depends on the speed" Pfizer can manufacture the product.
"They are doing that as well as they can, but also as safely as they can, so I expect we will have a matter of millions," he said.
He declined to give a specific figure, but said reports that around five million doses could be ready by New Year - enough for around 2.5 million people - were "not unreasonable".
"There are 50 hospitals ready to go from next week," he explained, "and then there'll be vaccination centres across the country where people will be able to go to be vaccinated.
"The third part is the vaccination programme is through GPs and pharmacists, where we'll be able to get out to people who can't come into a centre.
But the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has to be stored at -70 degrees, which Mr Hancock confirmed would make it more difficult to roll out in the community.
He pleaded with LBC listeners to take the jab "if you're asked to come forward by the NHS" which is being done according to a priority list published last week.
The health secretary confirmed that the Armed Forces would be involved in the logistics of delivering the vaccine to facilities across the country.
"After all this is going to be one of the biggest civilian projects in history," he added.