The UK’s top health officials today announced the priority list for vaccination against coronavirus, after health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday said the NHS is preparing to roll out Pfizer’s Covid vaccine from December.
Speaking at a Downing Street Covid briefing this morning led by deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation announced the “phase one” details for vaccinating the UK population against coronavirus.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the committee, said the first phase of vaccine rollout would “prioritise the most vulnerable individuals in society, specifically people who are most likely to die from severe Covid-19 infection”.
Interim current recommendations place care home residents and care home workers at the top of the priority list, followed by older age groups from 80-plus-year-olds, going down to 60-plus-year-olds, Professor Lim said.
“Then adults with underlying health conditions, then 50-plus-year-olds, going down the age bands.”
Professor Lim added: “If phase one is completed then we will have protected hopefully over 99 per cent of those individuals who are at risk of dying from Covid-19.
“We have not decided yet on who else should be vaccinated beyond phase one. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be vaccinated, but simply that we haven’t decided yet on prioritisation”.
It comes after pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Biontech’s breakthrough announcement earlier this week that their coronavirus vaccine had proven 90 per cent effective in clinical trials.
Pfizer described the results as a “great day for science and humanity”, as the two companies provided the first successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.
The announcement electrified stock markets around the world and boosted hopes for a return to normality by the Spring.
Hancock yesterday urged cautious optimism over the news, but said the NHS will be ready from December to roll out the new coronavirus vaccine if approved under the requisite health and safety guidelines.
However, Professor Van-Tam today warned that any successful vaccine would “absolutely not” prove a “get out clause for the current second wave that we are in”.
“We are going to have to push the second wave down by non-pharmaceutical interventions — social distancing, staying at home, all the things we’re doing right now. There’s no shortcut to the future,” he said.
It comes after the UK recorded its highest coronavirus death toll since May yesterday, with 532 further fatalities, taking the official UK death toll from Covid-19 to 49,770.
Van-Tam added that he had not yet seen any data from the most recent Pfizer vaccine trials.
“I can say that we have an agreement for 40m doses, which will cover two doses per person for 20m citizens, and that we are working with the company to understand what the volumes of delivery over time will look like,” the deputy CMO said.
Van-Tam added that the NHS would deploy a “mass vaccination approach” similar to the UK’s strategy for tackling common flu.
He said the phase one rollout would see mobile pop-up vaccination centres, plus domiciliary and home visits for the “extremely frail and housebound”.
“People will have to work intelligently based on the community that they’re serving, and that’s going to be very, very different in rural Lincolnshire than it’s going to be in a city centre in Nottingham or Birmingham”.
“This is one of the most important, if not the most important vaccination programmes we have done for decades,” he added.
Pfizer and Biontech have signed a $1.95bn contract with the US government to deliver 100m vaccine doses beginning this year. They have also secured supply agreements with the EU, UK, Canada and Japan.
Pfizer yesterday said it believes it will supply 50m doses by the end of this year and around 1.3bn by the end of 2021.