The NHS coronavirus vaccination programme could see everyone who wants it receiving their first dose by the Spring.
The NHS’ current plan for the COVID vaccine rollout — dependent on the arrival of supplies — would see the whole adult population able to begin receiving it before the end of January, according to leaked documents seen by the Healthcare Service Journal.
Under the plan, everyone who wants to would have been vaccinated by early April.
There are currently 260 vaccines being tracked by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, according to AFP, with 11 in large-scale phase three trials.
The NHS plans to create huge capacity for vaccinations across GP-run facilities, “large scale mass vaccination sites”, NHS trusts, and “roving models” for those who cannot travel.
The data relies on a range of assumptions including that there will be 75 per cent takeup, outside of residential settings like care homes and prisons, where 100 per cent is expected.
The plan also relies on supplies, including more than 7 million doses being available in December.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that he has formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use in the UK.
Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, due to arrive in the UK before the end of the year, is 95% effective overall and has passed its safety checks, the pharmaceutical giant and its partner BioNTech have said.
Hancock told a Downing Street press conference on Friday the company had already begun submitting data to the regulator and would submit its full data in the coming days.
“This is another important step forward in tackling this pandemic,” he said.
He said the speed of the roll-out of a vaccine would depend on the speed it could be manufactured.
“If the regulator approves a vaccine we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of roll-out in the new year.
“We are heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go.”
The government has said it doesn’t want to make COVID vaccine mandatory.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “We do need to win the argument and to persuade the public that the vaccine is safe.
“We’ve seen with previous vaccines over the course of the last 20 or 30 years, that there’s sometimes misinformation, that misinformation is now predominately online and we’ve got to combat that, and persuade people that it’s safe to take the vaccine.
But he insisted: “Let me be perfectly clear, we don’t have any plan to make the vaccine compulsory.”
On Monday, US biotech company Moderna announced that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate has shown efficacy of 94.5% during the phase 3 trials of 30,000 participants in the US.
And on Thursday the University of Oxford also announced that its vaccine was performing well in , and producing “similar” immune responses among younger and older adults, allaying fears that older people - the most vulnerable - may not respond so well.
The head of England’s biggest NHS hospital trust welcomed the news of vaccine availablity, but has said in a “best-case scenario” it could take until April to immunise enough people to make a difference against COVID-19.
Dr David Rosser, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust chief executive, said: “It’s pretty clear vaccination is not going to appear en masse until probably the beginning of February at the earliest.
“It is encouraging, (that) there are signs we might have some vaccine to vaccinate care home residents and the most vulnerable before then, but the big truckloads of stuff is not going to come in before February – that seems pretty clear.”
The dates pencilled in for beginning NHS vaccination schedules for each group, if all goes to plan, are:
Care home residents and staff, healthcare workers - from beginning of December;
Ages 80 plus - from mid-December;
Everyone aged 70-80 - from late December;
Everyone aged 65-70 - from early January;
All high and moderate risk under 65s - from early January;
Everyone aged 50-65 - from mid January; and
Everyone aged 18-50 - from late January; but with the bulk of this group vaccinated during March.
As part of the plans to keep the spread of coronavirus under control the government has announced two new "mega labs" capable if turning around 600,000 coronavirus tests a day will be built next year. The sites will be at Leamington Spa in the Midlands and another at an unconfirmed site in Scotland.
Watch: How will a vaccine be administered? What about adverse reactions?
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