THE NHS is preparing to launch a coronavirus vaccine shortly after Christmas, the deputy chief medical officer has revealed in private.
Thousands of NHS staff are to be trained to give the Covid jab, which Jonathan Van-Tam says will cut infections and save lives.
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Prof Van-Tam told MPs last week that stage three trials of the vaccine created at Oxford University and being manufactured by AstraZeneca mean a mass rollout could come as early as December, The Times reports.
In a briefing to MPs on Monday, he said: “We aren’t light years away from it.
"It isn’t a totally unrealistic suggestion that we could deploy a vaccine soon after Christmas. That would have a significant impact on hospital admissions and deaths.”
The government changed the law this weekend to expand the number of health professionals able to administer the jab.
The new regulations will enable pharmacists, dentists, midwives and paramedics to inoculate the public – although most people will not be given the jab.
It isn’t a totally unrealistic suggestion that we could deploy a vaccine soon after Christmas. That would have a significant impact on hospital admissions and deaths.
A health department official confirmed a “robust and comprehensive training programme” was being developed by the NHS and Public Health England to train more people to administer injections.
And Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “These legal changes will help us in to make sure we are ready to roll out a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it has passed clinical trials and undergone rigorous checks by the regulator.”
The first vaccines would be given to the elderly and vulnerable and to vaccinate those most at risk will take several months.
Van-Tam added: “Vaccines are being developed at a speed that, if successful, will save lives.”
NOT SO FAST
It comes after the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group warned last week that Brits may need to social distance and wear face masks until next summer.
Andrew Pollard warned that even if vaccine trials are completed at the end of this year, the jab might not be ready until well into 2021.
He said: “Life won't be back to normal until summer at the earliest. We may need masks until July.
“If we end up with a vaccine that's effective in preventing the disease, that is by far the best way to control the virus. But in the medium term, we'll still need better treatments.
“When does life get back to normal? Even if we had enough vaccine for everyone, in my view it's unlikely that we're going to very rapidly be in a position where the physical distancing rules can be just dropped.”
On Saturday, coronavirus deaths rose by 150 in the UK's deadliest day since June 3.
A further 16,171 infections were also confirmed, bringing the total number of positive test results in Britain to 705,428.
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