The UK reportedly has a ’50/50 chance’ of being the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine.
A decision could come as early as next week, and the AstraZeneca and Oxford University jab could be the first in line to be awarded a licence to start offering vaccinations.
A Government source told The Sun it is ‘very likely’ Pfizer and BioNTech will be the first approved vaccine, but ‘it’s looking pretty close’ and there’s a ’50/50 chance’ the UK will get there first.
Ministers are reportedly being prepped to launch a TV and radio campaign to encourage Brits to get the injection as early as next week.
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NHS workers will be the first to get the vaccine, before care home workers and those over the age of 80.
But scientists warned the Pfizer and Moderna jabs have not yet been tested for whether they stop transmission of the virus. At the moment they definitely only stop people from becoming ill.
The Pfizer jab has to be stored at -70C and can only be thawed in batches of 1,000, which makes transportation difficult logistically. But the Oxford injection can be stored at room temperature.
It was previously reported Britain could have 19 million doses of the Oxford and AstraZeneca’s vaccine by the end of the year.
Tom Keith-Roach, the president of AstraZeneca, said on top of the four million doses on standby for the UK at the moment, a further 15 million could be ready to roll out by the end of next month.
The vaccine is expected to cost just £2 per dose and is much cheaper than the other main front-runners, with Pfizer’s costing around £15 per dose and Moderna’s priced at about £26.
Oxford’s trials found the jab has a 90% chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later.
Its effectiveness drops to 62% when someone is given two full doses a month apart, though it is not yet known why.
The result also showed lower levels of asymptomatic infection in the smaller dose group.
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said this ‘means we might be able to halt the virus in its tracks’.
He said it is ‘a very exciting day’ and claimed his team’s injection would play a key part ‘in getting the world back to normal’.
Oxford’s jab is being seen as the country’s best chance of mass-inoculation of the population by the end of spring because the Government has pre-ordered 100 million doses, which is enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
The UK already has 4 million jabs ready to go as soon as it approved, which could see 2 million people vaccinated already before the end of 2020.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said last week the Oxford vaccine could start being deployed as early as December if it passes safety checks.
‘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,’ he said.
‘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 roll-out in the new year.
‘We’re heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go.’
Mr Hancock hailed recent developments on successful vaccine trials as ‘another important step forward in tackling this pandemic’.
But he said there is ‘still a long way to go’ and described administering the vaccine as a ‘huge logistical challenge’ for the NHS.
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