Vaccine hope: Covid jabs for all of UK by Spring

20 November 2020, 17:18 | Updated: 21 November 2020, 07:32

Shoppers carry bags in the centre of Cardiff where shops are open
Shoppers carry bags in the centre of Cardiff where shops are open. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Matt Hancock has confirmed the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine will begin to be rolled out next month if it is approved for widespread use.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the Health Secretary said the "bulk" of the vaccines will be administered in the new year.

He added that the Government has formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to assess the Pfizer vaccine for suitability.

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"This is another important step forward in tackling this pandemic," he said, adding that the speed of the roll-out of a vaccine would depend on the speed it could be manufactured.

"If the regulator approves a vaccine we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of roll-out in the new year.

"We are heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go."

It comes after Mr Hancock said earlier in the day that he hoped "we might get some [vaccinations] going" by December.

He said: "We have got this enormous flu vaccination programme and then the likely big numbers, if it comes off, and I stress the 'if', will be next year for a Covid vaccine but we still hold out the hope that we might get some going in December this year."

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"Deep freezers" have also been "stabilising over the last few weeks", he said, to prepare for the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored at -70C.

There have been several impressive results from the frontrunners producing a vaccine, with Pfizer and Moderna revealing their formulas were both proving to be 95% effective.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also said to be showing a positive immune response in older adults.

Also speaking at the press conference, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said scientists were on the "glide path" towards rolling out vaccinations.

He said: "Do I believe that we are now on the glide path to landing this plane? Yes I do.

"Do I accept that sometimes when you are on the glide path you can have a side wind and the landing is not totally straightforward, totally textbook? Of course."

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The professor also responded to a question about misinformation and fears of safety around the new vaccines, saying he would be "eager" to take one himself.

He promised he would also tell his mother to do so, too.

Professor Van-Tam also said there is no "magical number" of days that families could be allowed to meet for Christmas to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases.

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He warned infection rates will pick up again if the public ignore any guidelines put in place around Christmas.

"If people don't (follow the guidelines) then the first scientific principle is things will go back up again. There is dual responsibility here.

"There is no magic number about how many days it is going to cost us," he told a No 10 press conference.