A verdict on Germany’s Pfizer-backed coronavirus vaccine is expected by Christmas – before the much-touted Oxford-AstraZeneca alternative, according to reports.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has said the vaccine is in its “last mile” and results are expected within weeks – with the UK having already stocked up on doses for 20 million people.
It is one of six candidates Britain is ready to dish out once given the green light, but senior government sources have told The Times that Downing Street is confident the Pfizer vaccine will win the race.
To be vaccinated, each person needs two doses, with frontline NHS workers, as well as the elderly and vulnerable first in line.
Pfizer has collaborated with German firm Biontech to test 42,000 volunteers as part of the vaccine’s final stages, in which it needs two months of data before it can be signed off.
And the US company has promised more than a billion doses in 2021 – if it proves a success.
“Let’s all have the patience required for something so important for health and the global economy,” Mr Bourla said.
It comes after a study by Imperial College London – based on random swab testing of 86,000 in England between October 16 and 25 – estimated close to one million people in Britain have the virus in any one day.
It has urged Downing Street to take drastic action to bring down the R rate – currently at almost 1.6 – down to below one and avoid more deaths.
The study found there are likely around 96,000 new infections a day, close to the levels seen in March.
Boris Johnson is under further pressure to follow in the footsteps of Germany and France, with Angela Merkel having announced a four-week ‘lockdown lite’, which includes closing pubs and gyms.
Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, is thrusting his own nation into a new indefinite national lockdown.
The UK recorded 24,701 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, a 25 per cent rise on a fortnight ago, and 310 deaths, more than double the figure in the middle of this month.
The most severe local lockdown measures to date will come into force in Nottinghamshire tomorrow, while a senior minister has reportedly warned all regions of England are showing “troubling” signs.