Up to 2.5 million Britons are in line to receive Covid-19 injections by Christmas – in the largest vaccination program in NHS history.
They will be vaccinated at record speed by the health service, supported by an army of 30,000 volunteers.
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And hope is growing that the deployment will begin within two weeks.
Other data from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which revealed its vaccine breakthrough last week, shows its jab offers 95% protection – and it’s said to work just as well in the elderly.
Last week that figure was 90%. About 43,000 participants took part in his trial, of which only half received the blow.
Of the participants, 170 developed Covid-19. But 162 had received the dummy drug and only eight had received the genuine article.
Experts hailed the latest findings as “very good news”.
Pfizer will seek approval from UK regulators within days, with a decision expected by the end of the month.
RAF planes are ready to send vaccines from overseas, family doctors are ready to offer the vaccine seven days a week, and doctors could distribute treatment even on Christmas Day.
National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis has pledged: “The NHS will be ready and capable from day one.”
Priority is expected to be given to residents of nursing homes for the aged, followed by health and frontline care workers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Today’s news is another positive development.
“The regulator of our drugs is ready to do its critical job to assess its safety.”
The news comes as the St. John Ambulance has launched a recruitment drive for 30,000 volunteers.
More than 2000 are already registered, with helpers to train to deliver jabs and provide support.
It’s a bright moment in what has been a dark year.
Dr Charlie Weller
Pfizer has started producing the vaccine in Belgium, with shipments to be delivered once accepted.
Five million doses are expected to be available in the UK by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate up to 2.5 million people.
Dr June Raine, head of the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency that is to approve the vaccine, said: “The results reported by Pfizer are very encouraging.
“We look forward to receiving full trial results, after which we will rigorously assess the evidence for safety and efficacy.”
Dr Charlie Weller, head of vaccines at the Wellcome Trust, said: “This is a bright moment in what has been a dark year.”
Who will receive the first Covid vaccines?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) reviewed data on people suffering the worst consequences from the coronavirus and those most at risk of death.
Its provisional guidance, which assumes the jab is safe and effective in all groups, indicates that the order of precedence should be:
- Elderly people in a nursing home and workers in a nursing home
- All those aged 80 and over and health and social service workers, even if they may move up the list
- Anyone 75 and over
- People aged 70 and over
- Anyone 65 and over
- High-risk adults under 65
- Moderate risk adults under 65
- All those aged 60 and over
- All these 55 and over
- All those aged 50 and over
- The rest of the population, with a priority to be determined.
The JCVI said the prioritization could change if the first jab is not deemed appropriate or effective in older people.
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The UK will receive 40 million Pfizer jabs in total, with two doses needed to protect each patient.
Every large city will have a dedicated mass vaccination center against Covid.
A vaccine from the American company Moderna is almost 95% effective, and Britain will receive five million doses.
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