NHS set to roll out COVID-19 shot in New Year, says health secretary

The UK’s NHS is ready to start rolling out a coronavirus vaccine, likely beginning in the new year, according to health secretary Matt Hancock.

In an interview with the BBC Hancock said that the vaccine could be available by Christmas, but he expected a mass roll out “in the first part of the new year”.

Vaccination clinics would be open seven days a week and he said he is giving an extra £150 million to run them.

But he urged patience, saying it is unclear how many people will have to be vaccinated before life can return to normal.

Hancock made the comments after the landmark announcement from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech that their COVID-19 vaccine protected about 90% of patients from the disease in a phase 3 trial.

The UK government has ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and European and UK regulators have begun rolling reviews of the most advanced vaccine candidates.

This allows the European Medicines Agency and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to review data in real time, reducing the time taken from more than a year to a matter of weeks.

As reported by pharmaphorum, the UK could get the vaccines before the EU if the MHRA is faster with its review.

The BBC said the review could be complete by the end of this month.

GPs have been told to prepare to give patients two vaccine doses, to be delivered between 21 and 28 days apart.

Clinics could run between 8am and 8pm, according to the British Medical Association.

Only small numbers of the vaccine will be given in December with most shots taking place in 2021.

The government also hopes that mass testing will also help to turn the tide, by giving people accurate information about whether they have the virus or not, allowing them to go about their business if they are clear.

Shortly after Pfizer announced its trial success, it emerged that another late-stage contender from China’s Sinovac hit a safety issue.

A clinical trial in Brazil was put on hold after health authorities reported a “severe adverse” incident.

The Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said the incident took place on 29 October.

There are 47 COVID-19 vaccines in clinical development and 10 in phase 3, according to a regularly updated document from the World Health Organization.

Feature image courtesy of Rocky Mountain Laboratories/NIH

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