People around the world rejoiced at what could be the light at the end of the tunnel – while Matt Hancock said he had asked the NHS to “be ready” to roll out doses of the vaccine “from the start of next December”.
What does the Pfizer vaccine announcement mean for me?
So what is the vaccine, when might it arrive in the UK and when it does, how will it be distributed?
Here is what we know so far:
Who will be the first to get a Covid vaccine?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has examined data on who suffers the worst outcomes from coronavirus and who is at highest risk of death.
Its interim guidance says the order of priority should be:
– Older adults in a care home and care home workers
– All those aged 80 and over and health and social care workers, though they may move up the list
– Anyone 75 and over
– People aged 70 and over
– All those aged 65 and over
– High-risk adults under 65
– Moderate-risk adults under 65
– All those aged 60 and over
– All those 55 and over
– All those aged 50 and over
– The rest of the population, with priority yet to be determined.
What is the Pfizer vaccine?
The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, working with German biotech company BioNTech, has released interim analysis suggesting their vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19.
While these are interim findings and studies will continue, the results are very good news.
The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.
Pfizer plans to apply to the US regulator the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month.
The analysis was carried out after 94 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were found among those taking part in the trial.
What type of vaccine is it?
The jab is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.
Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code. This means no actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine and the rate at which it is produced can be dramatically accelerated.
As a result, mRNA vaccines have been hailed as potentially offering a rapid solution to new outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Professor hails Pfizer vaccine as ‘tremendous news’
Is it safe?
All vaccines undergo rigorous testing and have oversight from experienced regulators.
The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – the first agreement the firms signed with any government.
People will need two doses, meaning not enough shots have been secured for the entire UK population.
However, it is likely other vaccines will announce results from their clinical trials shortly.
How might a roll-out of the vaccine work in the UK?
Covid vaccine clinics could run from 8am to 8pm seven days a week, leading doctors have suggested.
GPs in England have been given information on how to prepare for a vaccine rollout.
According to the British Medical Association (BMA), the correspondence says that the NHS and GP practices must be prepared for “rapid delivery” in the event that a vaccine gets approved for use by regulators.
GPs have been told to prepare to give patients two vaccine doses, which are to be delivered between 21 and 28 days apart.
The BMA said due to the logistics and delivery requirements, it’s likely that groups of GP practices will need to work together with one “designated vaccination site”.
“Working together, practices will need to be prepared to offer vaccinations seven days a week so that the vaccine is delivered within its short shelf-life and so patients receive it as soon as possible,” it added.
“Practices will need to work together to decide which one practice (or another appropriate site) is used for the vaccination site, remembering the need for provision to be potentially available 8am-8pm, seven days a week.”
GPs will be paid £12.58 per vaccine delivered and practices will be provided with the appropriate medical kit and personal protective equipment.
What other vaccines exist?
There are more than 200 coronavirus vaccine candidates being tested around the world.
About 12 of them are in the final stages of testing, but Pfizer is the first to report any results.
The two frontrunners in the Covid-19 vaccine race are the one from Pfizer, called BNT162b2, and another being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which is also in phase three clinical trials.
Other potential vaccines in phase three trials include ones by US drugs firm Moderna and biotech company Novavax.
When can we expect results from the Oxford vaccine?
More than 20,000 volunteers are now taking part in trials for the Oxford vaccine, in countries including the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Kenya.
Professor Andrew Pollard, head of Oxford’s vaccine trial team, said he is optimistic data on safety and efficacy of their vaccine will be available by the end of the year.
Does this mean life will return to normal soon?
Life will go back to a “new normal”, but “we’re not there yet”, according to David Nabarro, co-director of Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation.
He said: “Even if a vaccine arrives in the near future we’ve got many months of still dealing with the virus as a constant threat that we’ve got to make certain that we continue to do all that is necessary to solve the virus causing major problems.”
However, Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government’s vaccine taskforce, indicated people could look forward to a normal life in the coming months.
Asked if life will return to normal by spring 2021, he told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am probably the first guy to say that but I will say that with some confidence.”