Number 10 Says The UK Will Have Ten Million Doses of Covid-19 Vaccine By The End Of This Year If Pfizer’s Trial Is Deemed Safe
The UK could have 10 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine before the end of 2020 if the results of a successful trial are deemed safe.
Downing Street described the news from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that their version currently has a 90% success rate as “promising”, while a leading scientific advisor said it will help people return to normal life by the spring.
The government has procured 40 million doses of the vaccine once it is put into production, the first such agreement signed, but as people will need two doses the deal is not currently enough to inoculate the majority of the population.
But Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson revealed a quarter of the shots could arrive her before the end of the year, with care home residents and staff at the top of the priority list, followed by those aged 80 and over and health and social care workers.
He was speaking after initial analysis of the Covid-19 vaccine was published, having been tested on 43,500 people in six countries with no safety concerns raised.
“The results are promising,” the spokesperson said. “While we're optimistic of a breakthrough, we must remember that there are no guarantees, we will know whether the vaccine is both safe and effective once the safety data has been published and only then can licensing authorities consider making it available to the public.
“In the meantime the NHS stands ready to begin the vaccination programme for those most at risk once a Covid-19 vaccine is available, before being rolled out more widely.
“In total, we have procured 40 million doses of the Pfizer candidate vaccine, with 10 million of those doses being manufactured available to the UK by the end of the year if the vaccine is approved by regulators.”
Pushed if they would be ready for rollout before Christmas the spokesperson wouldn’t go any further, but Pfizer said it plans to apply to the US regulator the Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval to use the vaccine they have developed with the firm BioNTech by the end of the month.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the government's vaccine taskforce, said he was “really delighted with this result”, saying it shows other vaccines were now likely to become available in the near future.
"It shows that you can make a vaccine against this little critter... Ninety percent is an amazing level of efficacy," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.
"It rolls the pitch for other vaccines because I can't see any reason now why we shouldn't have a handful of good vaccines."
Asked if people could look forward to a return to normal life by the spring, Sir John replied: "Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am probably the first guy to say that but I will say that with some confidence.”
Dr Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and chief executive, said: "Today is a great day for science and humanity."
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at the University of Oxford, said: "This news made me smile from ear to ear."
The FTSE 100 jumped more than 5.5% on the news of the vaccine, adding £82billion to the value of its shares in the market's best day since March.
The NHS has been working behind the scenes to roll out a vaccine once it has been approved, with venues earmarked for mass vaccination clinics, while "roving teams" will be deployed to care homes.
The Pfizer/BioNTech version is one of more than 200 vaccine candidates in clinical trials, and the government’s taskforce has picked six to purchase, across a range of different types.
In total they have struck agreements to buy 350 million doses, including 100 million of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
But as some of them will require special storage in ultra-low temperature freezers the NHS is also working on how to transport and deliver those vaccines, as well as working with Medicine and Healthcare products regulators to prioritise reviewing them for approval.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe