Coronavirus vaccine breakthrough as Brits may get jab by start of December

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A coronavirus vaccine could be given to Brits in time for them to hug their loved ones at Christmas.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the NHS is gearing up for a major inoculation programme – which could start in just 21 days.

The first vaccines could even be jabbed into Brits' arms as soon as December 1.

On Monday Pfizer announced its vaccine candidate is more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19.

Older adults who live in resident care homes and care home workers will receive the vaccine first according to the government's list of priorities.

The Pfizer vaccine has already been hailed a "critical milestone", with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday promising the UK "will be ready" to distribute it as soon as it is ready.

Anyone getting vaccinated will need to receive two doses of the jab, three or four weeks apart, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told Monday's Downing Street press conference.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is examining the effectiveness of the injection.

Its findings could allow care home residents to safely receive visitors – reuniting families at Christmas.

The watchdog’s guidance will have an immediate bearing on how those vaccinated can behave if it is approved for rollout in December.

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But a source has warned that allowing behaviour change in time for Christmas will be tight as immunity only develops 14 days after the second dose is administered, Mirror Online reports.

The UK has bought 40 million doses of the Pfizer/Biontech jab, with clinics expected to operate seven days a week to distribute it.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Hancock told the Commons: “The deployment of the vaccine will involve working long days and weekends, and it comes on top of all the NHS has already done for us this year, and I want to thank in advance my NHS colleagues for the work that this will entail.

“I know that they will rise to this challenge of being ready when the science comes good to inject hope into millions of arms this winter.”

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Confirming the military maybe involved in the vaccine rollout, he added: “The logistics are complex, the uncertainties are real and the scale of the job is vast, but I know that the NHS, brilliantly assisted by the Armed Services, will be up to the task.”

Experts have warned of technical difficulties delivering the jab, which must be stored at minus 70C until a few hours before it is injected.

Temperature limits “will only add to the complexity around transportation and storage logistics with specialist storage needed”, warned Cranfield University’s professor of supply chain strategy, Richard Wilding.

He said: “The specialist infrastructure and storage equipment will become a supply chain in its own right with its own manufacturing and distribution processes attached to it.

“Stresses on this supply chain will then impact on how much vaccine you can move.”

The rollout of the programme is “likely to be one of the biggest logistical challenges we have faced this century”, he believed.

Prof Wilding went on: “A successful rapid deployment of any proven vaccine doesn’t just rely on the amount of vaccine that can be produced, it relies on multiple factors such as infrastructure, information systems and having a workforce that can administer the vaccine.”

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  • NHS
  • Christmas
  • Coronavirus

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