NHS to be ready to roll out coronavirus vaccine ‘from start of December’, Matt Hancock says


H

ealth workers could start vaccinating Britons against Covid-19 as early as next month, the Health Secretary has confirmed.

Matt Hancock said he had asked the NHS to “be ready” to roll out doses of a new coronavirus vaccine “from the start of December”.

However, he warned, that it is “one step amongst many that we collectively need to take.”

Mr Hancock stressed that there were still many hurdles to overcome until the Government could be sure the jab is safe enough to innoculate the public.

He said: “We haven’t seen the full safety data, and obviously that is critical.

“We won’t deploy a vaccine unless we can be confident in its clinical safety, but we also do need to be ready should a vaccine be licensed and get through all those hurdles and be ready to roll it out.”

Despite the promising Pfizer development he said there would not be an immediate rush to vaccinate the population.

“The central expectation of the bulk of the rollout and deployment has always been in the first part of 2021,” he told Sky News. “This is a promising step but that’s the central expectation of our timescale.”

The Health Secretary emphasised that as soon as a vaccine is given the green light, it will be deployed “fairly” across the whole of the UK.

“The same goes for mass testing, making sure we roll that out across the whole UK.”

What does the Pfizer vaccine announcement mean for me?

Mr Hancock also revealed that the Government is to provide £150 million to support GPs in the deployment of a successful jab.

The Health Secretary said that once it becomes available, the vaccine will be delivered through care homes, GPs and pharmacists as well as “go-to” vaccination centres set up in venues such as sports halls.

“We will be working across the NHS with the support of the armed forces seven days a week, over weekends, over bank holidays, to get this rolled out into people’s arms as quickly as possible,” he told a separate interview with BBC Breakfast.

He said the exact model would depend on which vaccine was adopted.

“The Pfizer vaccine needs to be held at -70C until the last few hours before it is deployed, which obviously makes things more complicated. The AstraZeneca vaccine is a bit easier to deploy logistically.”

He said the vaccine would not be required for children and that uptake would be voluntary.

“We are not proposing to make this compulsory – not least because I think the vast majority of people are going to want to have it,” he said.

Mr Hancock told Sky News that the Government had invested in six different vaccines to make sure there will be enough for everyone who needs it.

“This is why we have been buying across the board.

“We need to secure enough for everybody who needs one according to that clinical prioritisation.”

In an earlier interview with Times Radio, the Health Secretary said that he wanted life to return “as close to normal as soon as possible”, insisting: “This is clearly a promising step but there are many steps to come.”

He continued: “We are all really so pleased to see some light at the end of the tunnel but it is absolutely crucial that in the meantime we all hold our resolve.

“We have always said our strategy is to suppress the virus until the vaccine can make us safe. That has come one step closer.”

Reinforcing his note of optimism, he added added: “What is absolutely critical right now is that as soon as a vaccine becomes available we are ready to deploy it.” 

“That is the job that will be led by the NHS. I have tasked them to be able to deploy this vaccine into people’s arms – according to priority that is set by clinical need – as quickly as the vaccine becomes available.

“It will be a colossal exercise. The work has been going on for months to get this in place should this happen.”

Prime Minister welcomes vaccine news but stresses need for caution

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee in England said practices would “stand ready” to deliver the vaccine, with clinics potentially running from 8am-8pm, seven days a week.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference he was “hopeful” there would be “some vaccine by Christmas”.

He said: “Frankly, we’re in the middle of the second wave, and I don’t see the vaccine making any difference for the wave we are now in.

“I’m hopeful that it may prevent future waves, but this one we have to battle through to the end without a vaccine.

“This is a very important scientific breakthrough. I am certain of that.

“I am hopeful because of all that, but not yet certain that we could begin to see some vaccine by Christmas.”



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