Government ‘hopeful’ of coronavirus vaccine by Christmas – but PM urges caution

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged caution as the government remains 'hopeful' of a coronavirus vaccine by Christmas...

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged caution as the government remains 'hopeful' of a coronavirus vaccine by Christmas Picture: TOLGA AKMEN/PA - Credit: PA

The Prime Minister and the deputy chief medical officer have stressed the need for caution amid news the UK could see a coronavirus vaccine by Christmas.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, deputy chief medical officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam said he was hopeful a vaccine would be available this year – but said there is no certainty.

His words come following the international breakthrough by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and BioNTech, whose coronavirus vaccine has shown a 90% effectiveness rate following interim analysis of its phase three tests.

Addressing the nation, Mr Van-Tam said: “I have to say this is really 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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“Right now the message is stand fast, rather than get too over excited about quite where we are,” Mr Van Tam added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I must stress that these are very, very early days.

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“The biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at a critical moment.”

Mr Van Tam added he does not believe the vaccine will help see the country through the current second wave of the pandemic, but added he is hopeful it would help prevent future waves.

“What we don’t know yet – and where you have to be patient and stick with us – is that we don’t know what this means yet for when we can get life back to normal, or when we can start to lift some of the restrictions that we live under,” he said.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, which would be administered in two separate doses – understood to be at a cost of £25.16 per person.

It is also understood that GP surgeries have been asked to prepare for the possibility of a vaccine being made available in December, and have been told it may be likely they have to open seven days a week to keep up with demand.

According to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, who advise the government, age is “the biggest priority” when determining who would receive a vaccination first.

Reacting to yesterday’s news, Nick Rayner, at Suffolk Primary Care, said: “On a personal level I am very excited about the possibility of a vaccine which can protect our most vulnerable members of society and will allow the country to get back to some semblance of normality. “The story is moving very fast. As GPs we are being asked to oversee the vaccine effort, which I believe we are certainly best placed to do. However, with the speed with which we are being asked to arrange this programme, my GP colleagues would like reassurance that we will get full visibility of the safety and efficacy data of any vaccines we are going to administer, to allow us to consent patients with confidence. “We are also keen to be reassured that if we need to open vaccine centres 7 days a week 12 hours a day that we will be supported to prevent this from having a negative impact on our ability to provide ‘normal general practice services’ at the same time.

“Or if we are not supported in this, then we would like guidance on work we are able to delay or stop to free up capacity for this enormous piece of work. “It is early on in the planning phase, but Suffolk Primary Care has been working with the Suffolk GP Federation since the news broke last week to formulate a plan to vaccinate several hundred thousand patients across the county.” Speaking last week, Ipswich and Colchester hospitals chief Nick Hulme said his trust is looking at the infrastructure for mass vaccination when it becomes available.

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