COVID jabs may be ready by Christmas, the NHS’s boss said yesterday. The results of clinical trials are due within days.
And Sir Simon Stevens said that, if the vaccine is approved, he has primed GPs for a December roll-out.
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He said yesterday on the eve of lockdown: “We’re waiting to fire the starting gun.”
It could mean that Brits might get immunised when the country comes out of lockdown — and just in time for Christmas.
Vaccine chiefs said the UK will have stockpiled 14 million doses of the two front-running jabs by the end of the year.
NHS England boss Sir Simon declared yesterday it was “ten out of ten” ready to roll out mass vaccinations.
Government sources said a verdict on one, made by US pharma giant Pfizer, will be out “imminently”.
Kate Bingham, chair of the UK vaccine taskforce, said patients could be receiving a safe and effective vaccine within weeks.
She was 50 per cent confident that all vulnerable Brits would be immunised by Easter.
THE NEWS CAME AS:
- DAILY Covid deaths reached 492, the highest figure since May 19;
- THE NHS in England moved to its highest alert level from midnight last night, with 12,320 coronavirus patients in beds;
- MORE than 2.2 million high-risk Brits have been told to leave home only for exercise or medical appointments over lockdown;
- PATIENTS can now have a Covid test at their local GP surgery if their practice opts in to the NHS Test and Trace programme;
- COVID-secure care home visits will be encouraged over lockdown, with families allowed to meet their loved ones in visiting pods, outside or through a window, and;
- THE nation’s top doctor admitted giving MPs false statistics as he made the case for a national lockdown. Prof Chris Whitty wrongly said infection rates were increasing in Liverpool in the over-60s, when numbers are now falling.
NHS bosses say radical plans to immunise millions in record time will see Nightingale hospitals become mass Covid vaccination centres.
Roving teams will visit care homes, while paramedics, physios and other health workers will support GPs and nurses to help deliver the nationwide roll-out.
Sir Simon said: “Our job is just to make sure that we are ready and waiting and able to fire the starting gun.
“How certain are we that we would be able to get going with at least some coronavirus vaccination before Christmas, if it were available? I would answer ten out of ten.”
Sir Simon said the “working assumption” is elderly Brits will get the jab first, followed by frontline health and social care workers.
In a separate briefing, Ms Bingham told MPs the chances of developing a vaccine that reduces illness and deaths are “very high”.
She hopes to see positive interim data from two of the front-runners — Oxford University and Pfizer — within weeks.
Ministers have already secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab — enough to treat 20 million patients — with ten million set to be delivered by the end of next month.
Prof Andrew Pollard, from the Oxford team, said an effective vaccine would also be a massive benefit help for other patients.
He called it a “complete game-changer” which would mean “fewer people with Covid going into hospital and that people who develop cancer can have their operations and all that chemotherapy”.
Asked whether a vaccine may be available by Christmas, Prof Pollard told MPs: “I think there is a small chance of that.”
Prof Pollard said a vaccine that is at least 50 per cent effective could “halve the number of deaths or hospitalisations”. He added: “I think we’re all hoping that vaccines will be more effective than that.”
If the vaccine works, officials say UK regulators will consider safety data out later this month before approval.
Prof Peter Horby, also from Oxford University, said the death rate among hospitalised Covid patients in the UK had halved.
Around 30 per cent died during the first wave but it now appears to be about 15 per cent.
He hailed it as “really fantastic news” but added: “We have to be a bit cautious because the age profile is not the same at the moment, and as more older people come in, that will creep up, I think. But it does indicate, I think, that the NHS is getting better at treating Covid patients.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said a mass vaccination roll-out was planned for early next year.
Over 60s classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’ for second lockdown in major change
He said: “While there are no certainties in the development, production, and timing of new vaccines, there is a possibility a Covid-19 vaccine could be available in the UK in the first part of 2021.
“It will only be rolled out once proven to be safe and effective through robust clinical trials and approved by medicines regulator the MHRA.
“Once approved, the NHS stands ready to begin the vaccination programme to those most at risk, before being rolled out more widely.”
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