The UK’s NHS is ready to start providing the new COVID-19 vaccine “as fast as safely possible”, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said
Asked whether the new COVID-19 vaccine could be available by Christmas, he said that was “absolutely a possibility”, but he expected that the mass roll-out occur “in the first part of next year”.
He said vaccination clinics would be open seven days a week, and he was giving GPs an extra £150m.
But he urged people to be patient.
“We just don’t know” how many people will need to be vaccinated before life can return to normal, Mr Hancock added.
On Monday, early results from the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine showed it could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid.
This comes after the COVID-19 vaccine currently in development by Pfizer and BioNTech has been found to be 90% effective in preventing people from getting the virus, it has been confirmed
But Boris Johnson has warned people not to “rely on this news as a solution” as it is still “very, very early days”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said: “We still appeal this morning for people’s patience, firstly to follow existing rules, because this is still a deadly disease and this is not over yet.
“Even once we start to roll it out, we still need to look after ourselves, look after our community by following the rules and being careful to stop the spread of transmission.”
“The NHS is ready, we’re prepared, I’ve put in the extra £150m today, the GPs are ready, we’re working with the pharmacists, the hospitals are going to play a very important role,” he said.
Asked how many people would need to be vaccinated before life can return to normal, he said: “Well the answer to that is we just don’t know.
“So the trials can tell you if a vaccine is clinically safe and if it’s effective at protecting an individual from the disease. What we can’t know, until we’ve vaccinated a significant proportion of the population, is how much it stops the transmission of the disease.”
This comes after the UK’s National Health Service is getting ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines before Christmas if a jab is ready, NHS England’s chief executive has said.
Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it would be “a mammoth logistical operation” and highlighted some of the challenges, including getting it from Belgium to the UK while not removing from a temperature of -70C more than four times.
Older care home residents and care home staff are at the top of a list from government scientific advisers of who would get immunised first, followed by health workers.
Mr Hancock said NHS staff would go into care homes to vaccinate residents, as well as setting up vaccination venues. Children would not be vaccinated, he said.
Prof Sir John Bell from Oxford University said: “I would worry about not giving this to as wide a percentage of the population as we can.”
“I’m more of the view that we need to vaccinate further into the population and vaccinate younger people as well, partly because we don’t really know what the long term effects of this disease are.”