Covid-19: UK ‘confident’ of having 800,000 vaccine doses by next week
The government is “absolutely confident” the UK will have 800,000 coronavirus vaccine doses by next week, when the vaccination programme starts, the business secretary has said.
Alok Sharma said some of the Pfizer/BioNTech doses had arrived, with more expected by the end of the year.
He was unable to say how many that will be.
NHS Providers said the UK must work on the basis that more doses might not arrive “for some time”.
Chief executive Chris Hopson
tweeted that it was “vital” hospitals sought to vaccinate as many people as possible in the highest priority groups when vaccinations begin on Tuesday.
He added that with “every day that goes past, we become more confident we will get a lot more [doses] and get them soon”.
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The first consignment of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus arrived in the UK on Thursday, though the number of doses has not been confirmed.
Asked about whether the 800,000 doses the UK is expecting in the coming days will arrive by next week, Mr Sharma told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We will have – I’m absolutely confident – that we will have 800,000 doses available at the point next week when we start the vaccination programme.
“Of course, by the end of this year we will expect some more doses to come through – I can’t give you a number on that.”
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list – which is recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – followed by over-80s and frontline health and care staff.
Mr Sharma reiterated that the bulk of the vaccination programme would be carried out next year, adding that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was also reviewing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The chief commercial officer for BioNTech, Sean Marett, said there would be more shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is made in Belgium, next week.
He said the first batch arrived on Thursday via the Eurotunnel and they were then transported to a storage facility.
Mr Hopson said the vaccines will by now have reached the hospital hubs, which are able to store them at the -70C temperatures they need to be kept at.
Hospitals were working out how many care home residents, care home staff and over-80s they can get it to, he said.
“Each one of those groups has a different set of characteristics in terms of the logistical difficulty of doing the vaccination,” he said, pointing out that the vaccine needs to be transported at -70C.
Mr Sharma also defended the UK’s approach to approving the vaccine, saying the MHRA was “absolutely meticulous” and was regarded as a “gold standard of regulation” by international scientists.
It comes after Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, apologised for remarks that seemed to criticise the UK’s vaccine approval process.
Mr Sharma told Sky News: “People should be really confident that this vaccine is safe. If it wasn’t safe it wouldn’t be deployed and I certainly have full confidence in the work the MHRA have done.”
In other developments:
- New national restrictions are to come into force in Wales later to try and curb the spread of Covid-19
- Businesses in Northern Ireland have welcomed comments from First Minister Arlene Foster that there will be no further Covid-19 restrictions before Christmas
The UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday. Trial results suggest it offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19.
It could take until April for all those deemed most at-risk to receive the new vaccine, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has previously said.
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Published at Fri, 04 Dec 2020 11:38:08 +0000