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UK could be first nation vaccinated against Covid-19

Health & Science
 Boris Johnson takes a coronavirus test. [AFP]

Britain could have three coronavirus jabs available by the end of the year before returning to normality by Easter, an expert has claimed.

While hundreds of thousands of mass pregnancy-style Covid tests will be rolled out to each of 67 towns and cities across the UK allowing for results in just 15 minutes.

It comes amid reports a million people a week could be vaccinated under NHS plans to ensure a jab can be administered as quickly as it is manufactured.

Professor Sir John Bell, part of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, has predicted there may be "two or three vaccines" by Christmas following the first breakthrough from Pfizer/BioNTech, which hasn’t yet passed regulator tests.

He also claimed he is "70% to 80%" certain a vaccine will allow the UK to re-open fully well before the summer, as has been previously suggested.

However, the outgoing chairman of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research, warned this now depends on the Government not “screwing up” distribution of the vaccine - which needs to be stored at -80C.

He was giving evidence on the Joint Inquiry Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt committee.

It comes as the Department of Health pushes for the delivery of vaccinations to begin from December 1, despite the NHS already stretched to near breaking point.

NHS England and the British Medical Association want GPs to lead the charge at scores of 12-hour vaccination centres in a matter of weeks, meaning usual care will be scaled back well into next year.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has earmarked £150 million to help bolster primary care services, including hiring extra doctors and expand treatment for patients struck down by 'Long Covid'.

The Government hopes to vaccinate all over-50s and the most vulnerable young adults, who make up 99 per cent of virus deaths, by early 2021, in the initial stage of a “three wave” strategy, if supplies allow, reports The Times.

On Tuesday Britain recorded its worst day for coronavirus deaths since May with a toll of 532, but officials estimate a vaccine rolled out effectively can slash those numbers by 90 per cent.

With enough doses of the 90 percent-effective Pfizer vaccine to give 20 million people the two required shots, Mr Hancock has promised the UK will be "right at the start" of vaccinations.

Sir John told the Commons Science Committee: "I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit the New Year with two or three vaccines, all of which could be distributed.

"And that’s why I’m quite optimistic of getting enough vaccinations done in the first quarter of next year that by spring things will start to look much more normal than they do now."

The Oxford-AstraZeneca alternative is understood to be just a few weeks behind the Pfizer vaccine and is crucial to Britain's three-stage strategy, with No10 having ordered over 100 million doses.

Speaking on the BBC Today programme, Mr Hancock added: "We have secured early access, and we will be among the first countries in the world to be able to start to do this. We may end up being right at the start."

Meanwhile, more than 600,000 swabs will be given to councils across England this week to test the vulnerable, with enough tests to be available every week to test 10 percent of each area's population.

The £5 pregnancy-test style kits will also allow university students to be regularly swabbed.


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