The Army is on standby to help NHS staff roll out a Covid-19 vaccine across the UK before Christmas, Matt Hancock has said.
The UK Health Secretary explained there were many hurdles to overcome but said the NHS was leading work to get those most in need, vaccinated as soon as possible.
Hancock warned that most people will not get a jab until 2021 and that there are big hurdles including regulatory approval of the new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and assessment of its safety data to overcome, reports Daily Record.
The Health Secretary said: “I’ve asked the NHS who are supported by the armed services in this – but the NHS very much leading this effort for deploying the vaccine – I’ve asked them to be ready from the start of December.
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“Obviously 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 ready to roll it out.”
Initial priority will given to those in care homes, the elderly and health and social care staff and Hancock said it had always been his expectation that most people will not get a jab until 2021.
Hancock urged people not to drop their guard and stop following the rules around social distancing, saying coronavirus is “still a deadly disease”.
He also said he was “not going to put a date on” when life may get back to normal.
However Sir John Bell, a member of the government’s vaccine task force said he was confident people could look forward to a return to normal life by the spring.
Hancock said: “This is promising news, but it is one step of many that we need to take to get out of this and to tackle this pandemic once and for all ”
Regarding progress on the alternative vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, Hancock said he did not know when their first data would be released.
He said: “We’re not exactly sure when further news will come from the Oxford trial. But we’re working again to ensure that can be deployed, should it come off.”
The UK government has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for about a third of the UK population.
It expects 10 million of these doses to arrive in the UK before the end of this year.
Government figures show 49,238 people have died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 and the number of cases has reached 1,213,363.
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