England’s deputy chief medical officer has said he has told his 78-year-old mother to take Pfizer’s breakthrough coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible and he would be at the front of the line to take it himself if he were eligible.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam held a press conference today outlining the steps that have to be taken before the jab is dished out en masse to Brits. But when pressed, he could not guarantee the vaccine would get Britain back to normal by Easter because of the colossal logistical challenges ahead.
Full data on Pfizer’s vaccine will be published this month and it’ll need to get the green light from the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before it is deemed safe enough to dish out to millions of Brits.
This process is expected to be wrapped up within weeks and the NHS is on standby to start deploying the shot by December 1.
To demonstrate his full confidence in the vaccine, the deputy CMO also said he had encouraged his 78-year-old mother to be ready to take the jab as soon as possible. Under the Government’s vaccine distribution plans, she would fall under into third priority group, with care home residents and staff first in line, followed by over-80s and frontline NHS workers.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he would be ‘at the front of the queue’ if it was up to him to take a coronavirus vaccine
Britain is getting ready to launch the biggest immunisation drive in British history after preliminary data from Pfizer – the American drugs giant which makes Viagra – showed its vaccine was 90 per cent effective at blocking Covid-19. Hopes were raised further yesterday when prominent Government scientists claimed life would return to normal by Easter without the need for draconian lockdown rules.
But Professor Van-Tam could not promise a pre-Covid normality by spring because of the colossal logistical challenge ahead. He said the production and deployment of the vaccine ‘wasn’t going to be instant’.
Retired doctors and medical students will be drafted in to help dispense vaccines from a thousand GP surgeries around the country amid fears there are not enough staff to carry out the mammoth operation. The army will also be used to help transport the vaccines between labs and clinics.
Professor Van-Tam also pointed out that it’s unclear if the vaccine will prevent people from passing the disease to others, or if it just protects people from falling ill. There’s still a small chance people who are immunised can harbour Covid-19 without ever knowing and spread it to other people – which happens with young children who get the flu.
Asked whether the country could return to a pre-Covid normality by Easter, Professor Van-Tam said: ‘At this point I don’t think those questions can be answered. Delivery is not going to be instant across all of those groups, vaccine production is not going to be instant across all of those groups.
‘We don’t yet know if this vaccine is going to prevent transmission as well as preventing illness, and from that perspective it would be wrong of me to give you a sense that whoever told you that we’d be completely back to normal for Easter is right.
‘I don’t think I know the answer to that. I think I can tell you that I’m very hopeful that over time vaccines will make a very important difference to how we have to live with Covid-19 in the long run.’
How does the Government plan to distribute the vaccine?
About 1,200 GP surgeries are preparing to start dishing out a million Covid-19 jabs every week from December 1, so long as a vaccine sails through approval by then.
Matt Hancock has promised the NHS will work around the clock to get the country vaccinated, with practices open between 8am and 8pm seven days a week and on Bank Holidays.
As well as GP surgeries, vaccines will be dispensed through care homes, pharmacists, as well as ‘go-to’ vaccination centres set up in venues such as sports halls.
But the Health Secretary admitted it’ll be a ‘colossal’ undertaking, with the army, as well as medical and nursing students, and retired medics, being drafted in to help.
GPs have warned they’ll need all the extra staff they can get to juggle delivering the vaccines while trying to get non-Covid appointments back up and running.
NHS bosses have told all of England’s 1,250 GP networks to designate a single practice capable of administering at least 975 doses of the vaccine in their area each week — the equivalent of at least 1.22million nationwide. Surgeries will need to have fridge space available by December 1, according to documents.
Pharmacists and dedicated clinics set up in places such as sports halls are also likely to be used. Patients will need to be observed for 15 minutes after the vaccination is administered and appointments can be managed through a national booking system, it was also revealed today.
Who will be first in line to get the jab?
A priority list of which Brits should get a vaccine first was drawn up earlier this year by the influential Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and is now being used as the blueprint for the rollout.
After care homes are inoculated, NHS staff and everyone over the age of 80 will be second in line. Those over 75 will be next in the queue, followed by over-70s, over-65s and high-risk adults under 65 with diseases such as cancer.
They will be followed by moderate risk adults under 65 – including diabetics and asthmatics. Over-60s will be next, with over-55s and over-50s the final priority groups. The general population will be last to get their hands on a jab and the JCVI says they will be prioritised based on age or underlying conditions.
Experts have said it is worth getting everyone vaccinated against coronavirus with Pfizer’s jab should it be approved, even though early results suggest it doesn’t trigger an immune response in one in ten people, because this will help to protect others and the most vulnerable from the virus.
They added that in those where the vaccine is unlikely to stop them catching Covid-19 it could still make a severe infection less likely, helping to protect them from being hospitalised and stop the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.
The Queen and rest of Royal Family WON’T be able to jump the queue for Covid vaccine, rich people will be banned from buying jab and even Boris will have to wait his turn
No one will be given ‘special treatment’ when the country launches its mass-immunisation drive next month, according to a senior Government source who has assured the public the jabs will only be obtainable through the NHS. Even rich companies won’t be able to skip the line.
Guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), published in September, said care home residents and their carers will be at the top of the pecking order. Those over 80 will be next in the queue, including the Queen at 94-years-old, followed by those over 75, over-70s, over-65s and high-risk adults under 65.
According to the priority list, Prince Charles, 71, would be among the fourth group to get access, with the Prime Minister, at 56, placed ninth in the over-55s and Prince William, 38, in the last group, 11th in line for the jab.
The Prince of Wales, Mr Johnson and the Duke of Cambridge have all had the virus, but scientists are still unsure on the truth on immunity due to Covid-19 having only been around since January – meaning its long-term effects are still unclear.
There have also been fears wealthy corporations would try to snap up vaccines directly from the manufacturer to get their staff back to work and make up for the money haemorrhaged during lockdown. This raised concerns that it could limit the number of vaccines available to the British public. However, the Department of Health has assured people this will not happen.
Plans for the mass-vaccination programme were jolted into motion on Monday when American drugs giant Pfizer – the company which makes Viagra – released early data showing its vaccine can prevent nine in 10 people from catching Covid-19.
It comes as family doctors are set to start the mammoth operation of vaccinating millions against Covid-19 within weeks. NHS England has told GPs to be ready to deliver the jabs between 8am and 8pm ‘seven days a week’ once a vaccine is approved.
Staff at more than 1,200 GP surgeries are being asked to administer the jabs inside care homes and at designated sites across the country. Mass vaccination centres are being set up at sports halls, sports grounds and shopping centres with the Army put on standby in ‘the biggest logistical effort since the Second World War’.