The biggest vaccine programme in UK history is currently underway as the UK battles through the coronavirus pandemic, which has been with us now for ten months. The vaccine has offered considerable hope to millions desperate to get out of lockdown and back to normal life.
Some 500,000 people have now been vaccinated against the virus in the UK using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Canada and the USA have now both approved the vaccine and have begun administering it.
When more vaccines are available, the Government has ambitions to administer a million vaccines per week, with more GP’s and vaccination centres being set up to move through the process as quickly as possible.
The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, seven million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 100 million doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.
In terms of the Pfizer vaccine, it is administered in two doses – so there is enough to cover 20 million people across the UK currently.
Currently, only those over 80, residents and workers in care homes and healthcare workers are being called up to take the vaccine.
Around nine in 10 deaths from coronavirus are of people over 65, and according to a study by Ipsos More and Kings College London, thankfully people in older age groups said they were likely to take the vaccine when it is offered to them.
The vaccine is not compulsory – and no vaccine in history has ever been compulsory in the UK.
Because the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at temperatures of minus 70C, it makes it trickier to store and transport, whereas the Oxford vaccine does not need to be stored at such a low temperature.
Professor Sarah Gilbert from the University of Oxford revealed there is a “pretty high” chance the Oxford vaccine will be rolled out before the end of the year.
She said: “I think the chances are pretty high.
“But we do need multiple vaccines, all countries need multiple vaccines, the world needs multiple vaccines, and we need vaccines made using different technologies if that’s possible.”
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it is “highly unlikely” the new variant of Covid-19, which is spreading throughout the UK, will compromise the vaccine.
In an address to the Commons, he said: “I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease and the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine, but it shows we’ve got to be vigilant and follow the rules and everyone needs to take personal responsibility not to spread this virus.”
The chief executive of BioNTech says the German pharmaceutical company is confident its coronavirus vaccine works against the UK variant, but further studies are needed to verify this.