A massive deployment of a Covid-19 vaccine in Britain could be completed in as little as three months, it has been reported.
Scientists working on the Oxford vaccine hope regulators will approve it before the start of 2021.
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Health officials estimate that each adult could receive a dose of the vaccine within six months.
Government sources involved in making the vaccine told The Times they expected a full program to take six months once approved – but would likely be much faster, meaning every adult in the UK could be vaccinated as early as Easter.
A Royal Society report had previously claimed that it could take a year for all eligible people to receive a vaccine.
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But health officials now believe it can be done much faster.
Rules are being developed to allow a much larger group of health workers to kick in.
Training for physiotherapists, midwives and other healthcare professionals to help administer the vaccine is expected to begin in a few weeks, the newspaper says.
Drive-through vaccination centers are also planned to deal with the vast logistical problem of administering vaccines to tens of millions of people.
Even the armed forces could be called upon to help.
A government source told the newspaper: “We are looking at getting closer to six months and it will probably be much shorter than that.”
However, other members of the government are more cautious, saying that if priority groups can be established quickly, vaccinating each adult could take longer.
The time required will depend on the success of the vaccine as well as the success of any national immunization program.
While rapid vaccination of the elderly and high-risk groups would be seen as essential to save lives and ease restrictions, there would be less urgency to vaccinate younger, healthy adults.
The University of Oxford is currently working on developing a vaccine with Astrazeneca, which is the most advanced of those supported by the UK.
Human trials have been going on since April and it is hoped they can be approved by regulators by Christmas.
Britain has 53 million adults and giving each adult two doses of a vaccine within six months would mean 600,000 a day.
If the same thing were to be achieved in three months, to hit an Easter goal, that would mean 1.2 million hits per day.
Nursing home residents and staff are said to be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by those over 80 and NHS staff.
As part of a program developed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, it will then be given to everyone over 65, followed by young adults at higher risk, who could include those from minority groups. ethnic groups as well as those with serious health problems.
People over 50 would be next, with younger adults at the back of the line.
The government has already ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, which are already being manufactured even before its effectiveness is proven.
Scientists involved in the trial hope to get results before the end of the year.
To be considered successful, it must be shown that it prevents at least 50% of infections.
If approved by regulators, the NHS is ready to begin mass vaccination almost immediately, the newspaper said.
The Royal Society released a report this week warning of the challenges of producing a vaccine against the coronavirus.
Nilay Shah, head of the chemical engineering department at Imperial College London, and co-author of the report, said: “Even when the vaccine is available, it doesn’t mean everyone will be vaccinated within a month. .
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“We’re talking about six months, nine months… a year. There is no way life will suddenly return to normal in March. ”
The spokesperson for the Department of Health strongly disputed these claims, saying, “This study does not reflect the enormous amount of planning and preparation that has taken place across government to rapidly deploy a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine. effective.
“We are convinced that we have the adequate means of transport, personal protective equipment and logistical expertise to deploy a Covid-19 vaccine as quickly as possible throughout the country.”
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