Matt Hancock Says The NHS Could Begin Covid Vaccinations From Next Week After The Pfizer Jab Was Approved
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has a 95% efficacy according to final trial data
The Health Secretary has suggested vaccinations could begin within days after the UK medicines regulator gave the green light to the Pzifer jab.
The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after medicines regulator, the MHRA, said it could be used from next week.
Ministers have already purchased 40m doses of the vaccine - which has proven to be 95% effective in its final trials - enough to vaccinate 20m people due to the requirement for each person to have two doses.
Announcing the news, Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: "Help is on the way. The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating next week."
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said that 800,000 doses of the vaccine will arrive in the UK next week, adding: "This is fantastic news. The MHRA, the fiercely independent regulator, has clinically authorised the vaccine for rollout. The NHS stands ready to make that happen.
"So, from early next week we will start the programme of vaccinating people against Covid-19 here in this country."
The cabinet minister said the first vaccinations would begin in hospitals around the country which are already equipped to handle the vaccine, but that vaccination centres and community rollout would also be ramped up ahead of a mass programme.
"The first is hospitals themselves, which of course we’ve got facilities like this – 50 hospitals across the country are already set up and waiting to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s approved, so that can now happen," he told Sky News.
"Also vaccination centres, which will be big centres where people can go to get vaccinated. They are being set up now.
"There will also be a community rollout, including GPs and pharmacists. Now, of course, because of the -70C storage conditions of this vaccine, they will be able to support this rollout where they have those facilities.
"But they’ll also be there should the AstraZeneca vaccine be approved because that doesn’t have these cold storage requirements and so is operationally easier to roll out."
And he admitted the requirements for the vaccine to be stored at an ultra-low temperature would make it a "challenging rollout".
"This is a challenging rollout and the NHS in all parts of the UK stands ready to make that happen. They are used to handling vaccines and medicines like this, with these sorts of conditions," he added.
"It’s not easy but we’ve got those plans in place, so this morning I spoke to my counterparts in the devolved nations to make sure that we are all ready to roll out this vaccine … from early next week."
Responding to the news, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Thank you to all those involved in this wonderful news - from the brilliant scientists to the trial volunteers.
"We must now ensure vaccines are rolled out safely but swiftly across the country."
Meanwhile, Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, added: "This is an important next step in our response to the coronavirus pandemic and hospitals will shortly kick off the first phase of the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history.
"The NHS has a proven track record of delivering large-scale vaccinations from the winter flu jab to BCG and, once the final hurdles are cleared and the vaccine arrives in England’s hospitals, health service staff will begin offering people this ground-breaking jab in a programme that will expand to cover the whole country in the coming months."