Friday 20 November 2020 5:33 pm

Vaccine by Christmas: Government ready to start vaccinating ‘next month’

The NHS is ready to start vaccinating people in England against coronavirus from next month, the health secretary confirmed today.

“If the regulator approves a vaccine, we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of the rollout in the New Year,” Matt Hancock said at a Downing Street coronavirus briefing.

Read more: Vaccine by Christmas: Government ready to start vaccinating ‘next month’

The health secretary announced the government has now formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to assess the vaccine being produced by Pfizer and Biontech, meaning a vaccine could be ready in time for Christmas.

Hancock added that the vaccine deployment timeline “will depend on the speed at which the vaccines can be manufactured.”

Pfizer yesterday announced that its experimental coronavirus vaccine proved 95 per cent in its final clinical trials, boosting hopes for a clear path out of the pandemic.

The drugs firm today announced it has filed for emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration to begin vaccine rollout in America from mid-December. 

“We’re heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go,” the health secretary said. “Coronavirus remains a grave danger right now”.

Deputy chief medical office Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said vaccine approval “will happen at the speed of science”.

“[Regarding] certainty about vaccines before Christmas, we do have a certain readout on the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine, which we have contracted to obtain for the British people,” he said.

Van-Tam added that Public Health England does not currently know how many doses of a Covid vaccine it will be able to roll out before the New Year.

Leaked documents seen today by the Health Service Journal showed the NHS’ current plan for a potential vaccine rollout could see England’s adult population start being vaccinated against coronavirus from January.

The documents revealed that “everyone who wants to” will be vaccinated by early April under the government’s draft Covid-19 vaccine deployment programme.

It comes as the UK’s top health officials last week announced the priority list for vaccination against coronavirus. 

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, 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.”

Read more: Coronavirus vaccine ‘to be rolled out to all of England’ by January under leaked NHS plans

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”.

This is a breaking news story. More to follow