Plans are being made to have every person in England vaccinated by April, according to reports.
The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been circulating headlines of late. Earlier this month, news of its 90% efficacy rate in immunising the virus emerged, with a higher rate of 94% in over 65s.
In England alone, there’s been more than 1.28 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 47,842 deaths. As the country approaches the end of its national lockdown, vaccine rollout is a matter of anxious discussion everywhere.PA Images
According to the Health Service Journal, which saw leaked documents, NHS England plans to start vaccinating the adult population before the end of January next year. Earlier, it was announced that the UK government had ordered 30 million doses of the BioNTech vaccine.
There are some caveats. For example, there needs to be a steady flow of supplies, with more than seven million doses needed for December. Also, uptake in the vaccine needs to sit at around 75%, assuming all of those in care homes receive the immunisation.
All things going well, the NHS hopes to distribute large capacities across surgeries, NHS trusts, ‘large scale mass vaccination sites and roving models’ for those who can’t travel. Even a small delay ‘may not make a huge impact on the overall schedule’, the journal notes.
The draft plan sets out the following schedule: care home residents and staff, as well as those above the age of 70, will receive the vaccine before the end of this year; those aged 65-70 will be vaccinated in early January; those aged 50-65 will receive the vaccine in mid-January; and finally, those aged 18-50 will be up for vaccination between late January and March.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, as per BBC News: ‘I know everyone wants to know about the timing and the speed of the rollout. That will depend on the speed at which the vaccines can be manufactured.’
We know that the manufacturing process for all vaccines is difficult and uncertain so I’ve asked the NHS to be ready to deploy at the speed at which the vaccine can be produced.
If, and it still is an if, if the regulator approves a vaccine, we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of the rollout in the new year. We’re heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go.
Hancock confirmed the government has formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
BioNTech’s chief executive Uğur Şahin earlier said he believes it to be critical in overcoming the pandemic across the world.