The Government has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and the UK will be ‘ready’ to deliver these to ‘one third’ of the population, the Prime Minister has said.
It comes as Pulse has revealed that GPs will be asked to take the lead on the unprecedented vaccination campaign via a DES being announced this week.
It also comes as the chair of the UK Vaccines Taskforce last week said 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – which was declared 90% effective today – will be manufactured for possible UK use before the end of the year.
In a news conference this evening, Boris Johnson said: ‘What I can say is that if and when this vaccine is approved, we in this country will be ready to start using it.
‘Earlier this year, the UK Government ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for about a third of the population, since you need two doses each. And that puts us towards the front of the international pack on a per capita basis.’
However deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam used the same news conference to warn against getting ‘over excited’ about today’s news, adding that safety data was expected to be published on the Pfizer trials in the ‘next few days’.
Professor Van-Tam added that the priority list for receiving vaccination ‘cannot be finalised’ before the JCVI has seen the ‘full characteristics’ of the vaccine, but that age is likely to remain the ‘biggest priority’.
He said: ‘I’m hopeful, because of all that – but not yet certain – that we could begin to see some vaccine by Christmas.
‘Vaccine supplies – we hope – will come, subject always to authorisation by the MHRA, and if they do – when they do – we might be able to look towards the end of spring for a much better horizon than we have in front of us right now.’
He added: ‘More importantly, it is good news for many other vaccines to come because almost all of the other vaccines coming also target the [same aspect of the coronavirus].’
A UK Government spokesperson said: ‘The results from Pfizer/BioNTech are very promising and we have procured 40 million doses of their vaccine.
‘While we are optimistic of a breakthrough, we must remember that there are no guarantees.
‘We will know whether the vaccine meets robust standards of safety and effectiveness once their safety data has been published, and only then can the medicines regulator can consider whether it can be made it available to the public.
‘Once approved, the NHS stands ready to begin a vaccination programme for those most at risk, as currently recommended by the independent JCVI, before being rolled out more widely.’
Today Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced interim findings from their phase three study suggesting their vaccine is ‘more than 90% effective’ in preventing Covid-19 in participants without evidence of prior infection.
However, the manufacturer said that the final efficacy percentage ‘may vary’ as the study continues to collect additional safety and efficacy data.
Data from the full phase three trial will be submitted for scientific peer-review publication, Pfizer added – although GP public health experts expressed cautious optimism about the news.