When will the mass roll-out of Covid vaccines start?

There has finally been some good news about coronavirus this week with several potential vaccines showing successful results in trials.

Breakthroughs on the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford Covid-19 jab have given hope that a return to normality could be on the cards at some point next year.

All three have shown promising signs they can protect people against the killer disease – though none have been approved for use by regulators yet.

A successful vaccine is seen as key for nations to come out of lockdown, but that won’t happen until a large proportion of the population is vaccinated.

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Once a jab is approved, governments face the huge logistical challenge of administering it as quickly as possible to those who need it most.

The NHS is preparing to open dozens of mass vaccination centres across England to vaccinate people against Covid-19 as speedily as possible.

Today Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that the Pfizer coronavirus jab could be rolled out next month if approved by UK regulator.

It came after leaked plans showed the whole of the adult population could be vaccinated by April if supplies allow.

Here, we take a look at how quickly the vaccine will become available and how soon it will be rolled out en-mass.

When will a Covid vaccine be available?

The UK government has ordered  100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine – compared to 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and five million of the Moderna vaccine.

Mr Hancock revealed today that the Government has asked UK medical regulators to assess the Pfizer vaccine for use in the UK.

The candidate was shown to be 95% effective in phase three trials.

Pfizer has already applied for emergency approval in the US and has begun submitting data to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Mr Hancock said that if the MHRA approves a vaccine, ‘we will be ready to start the vaccination next month, with the bulk of the roll-out in the New Year’.

When will the Oxford vaccine become available?

The speed of the vaccination roll-out will depend on the speed it could be manufactured.

The Oxford vaccine is expected to be easier to manufacture on a global scale than Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine because it doesn’t need to be stored at very cold temperatures.

The UK’s large order – almost enough to vaccinate the entire population – means that if it is approved before Christmas and becomes available early next year, it would make a major difference to how quickly it could be rolled out to priority groups.

However the Oxford trial is slightly behind the Pfizer and Moderna trial. Data released on Thursday showed it was 99% effective in creating antibodies but it’s not known if these will actually protect against the virus itself. 

When will the Moderna vaccine become available?

Like Pfizer, Moderna has reached phase three trials which showed the candidate to be almost 95% effective.

However, the UK is not set to receive the first batch of the Moderna jab until Spring 2021, as there is no ‘stockpile’ of these vaccines as they are yet to be manufactured.

Who will get the Covid vaccine first?

As age is the biggest risk factor in falling severely ill with Covid-19, older members of the population will get the vaccine first.

In the UK, older care home residents and care home staff are top of the preliminary priority list, followed by health workers such as hopital staff and people over 80.

People are then ranked by age, with under 50s at the bottom of the list.

When will a mass-roll out begin?

Though some people might be given the vaccine before Christmas if one is approved, most are likely to be offered it in the new year.

Earlier, leaked NHS documents revealed all adults in England – of any age – could start to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before the end of January if supplies allow.

Under the draft Covid-19 vaccine deployment programme, seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), every adult who wants a jab could be vaccinated by early April.

It is thought that the Government will train an army of volunteers to administer the jabs.

People will be vaccinated at sites around the country, as well as in hospitals and by GPs in the community.

Mr Hancock said: ‘The NHS is in the process of establishing vaccination centres across the country that can manage the logistical challenge of needing to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at -70C.

‘In addition it is establishing vaccination hubs in hospitals for NHS staff.

‘These two routes are likely to comprise the bulk of the campaign this side of the new year. Then there will be a community roll-out involving GPs and pharmacists.’

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