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NHS asked to ‘ready’ itself to provide Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

Health Secretary Matt Hancock expects widespread roll-out early next year

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has been asked to get ‘ready’ to administer Pfizer's potential COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Hancock said he has been in talks with the NHS and had asked the health service to be ready to start administering the vaccine “from the start of December”.

"Of course there are many hurdles that still need to be gone over and we haven't seen the full safety data. Obviously that is critical and we won't deploy a vaccine unless we can be confident in its clinical safety,” added Hancock.

Although he said there is “a possibility” that the vaccine could become available by Christmas, Hancock maintained that widespread roll-out of the shot is likely to occur in the “first part” of 2021.

Yesterday, Pfizer and its development partner BioNTech revealed the first data from a large-scale phase 3 trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2.

The preliminary results show that the vaccine is 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections – a figure that experts view as being particularly promising, given that the first vaccine candidates were forecast to have 60-70% accuracy.

Although the initial data is positive, Pfizer and BioNTech acknowledge that the final vaccine efficacy percentage could change as the study continues.

Additional key data will also be needed to fully understand the vaccine candidate, including key safety data that is expected to be available by the third week of November.

The UK government signed a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech in July for early access to 40 million doses of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.

In response to the Pfizer/BioNTech announcement, a government spokesperson said:

“While we are optimistic of a breakthrough, we must remember that there are no guarantees.

“We will know whether the vaccine meets robust standards of safety and effectiveness once the safety data has been published, and only then can the medicines regulator consider whether it can be made available to the public.

“Once approved, the NHS stands ready to begin a vaccination programme for those most at risk, as currently recommended by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).”

The JCVI has issued provisional prioritisation for COVID-19 vaccines, with older adults living in care homes and care home workers ranking top in priority. Following that, health and social care workers have priority, as well as those over the age of 80 years.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

10th November 2020

From: Healthcare

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