Pfizer jab breakthrough raises hopes for two or three Covid vaccines by Xmas, says Govt adviser

TWO or three effective Covid vaccines could be ready to be rolled out by New Year, a Government adviser said today.

Sir John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford University, said news that the Pfizer jab is 90 per cent effective means "many other vaccines" are likely to be effective too.

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Sir John, who is a member of the Government's vaccine taskforce, said he would not be surprised if we have "two or three vaccines" in the coming weeks.

He said that is why he is optimistic that "by spring, things will start to look much better".

Pfizer boss Albert Bourla said their findings marked a "great day for science and humanity" as the jab was developed in 10 months – compared to the average ten to 15 years for traditional vaccines.

Sir John told MPs today: "I think this journey to a vaccine has been a long journey and I think there's a risk that people will underestimate the importance of the announcement yesterdays.

"The big challenge here was to find a vaccine that actually had efficacy against this virus.

"There are many pathogens for which we have looked for decades and not found a vaccine that works."

Calling it a "massive step forward", he added: "It also signals, I think, that many of the other vaccines that have the same immunogenicity are likely also to be efficacious.

"So 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 Covid vaccine frontrunners

The UK has pre-ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 10 million of which could be ready by Christmas, Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday.

They are just a fraction of the 350million doses of six different experimental vaccines the UK has secured.

The UK has also pre-ordered 100million doses of the Oxford University jab another front runner that is being developed with AstraZeneca.

But the Government has yet to buy up any doses of another leading jab, being developed by Moderna.

That jab works in a similar way to the Pfizer vaccine, so the hope is it too will be effective.

Currently, only Pfizer have released their interim results to show how effective their vaccine is.

Last week, Prof Andrew Pollard, who is leading the developing of the Oxford University jab, said there's a "small chance" it could be available before Christmas.

NHS ready to roll out jabs within weeks


Who will get the first doses?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has examined data on who suffers the worst outcomes from coronavirus and who is at highest risk of death.

Its interim guidance, which assumes the jab is safe and effective in all groups, says the order of priority should be:

  1. Older adults in a care home and care home workers
  2. All those aged 80 and over and health and social care workers, though they may move up the list
  3. Anyone 75 and over
  4. People aged 70 and over
  5. All those aged 65 and over
  6. High-risk adults under 65
  7. Moderate-risk adults under 65
  8. All those aged 60 and over
  9. All those 55 and over
  10. All those aged 50 and over
  11. The rest of the population, with priority yet to be determined.

The JCVI said the prioritisation could change if the first jab were not deemed suitable for, or effective in, older adults.

Matt Hancock said today the NHS is on standby and could roll out the first Covid vaccine within three weeks.

Pfizer said they will apply to regulators in the US and UK this month for emergency approval – which would be the green light needed to begin rolling out doses.

The Health Secretary told Sky News: "I have asked them [the NHS] to be ready from the start of December.

"Of course there are many hurdles that still need to be gone over and we haven't seen the full safety data, and obviously that is critical.

"We won't deploy a vaccine unless we can be confident in its clinical safety, but we also do need to be ready should a vaccine be licensed and get through all those hurdles and be ready to roll it out."

Yet he stressed it was "absolutely a possibility" that doses would start to be given out before Christmas.

Giving evidence to the Health and Social Care and Science Committees today, Sir John said it is "unlikely" that the Pfizer jab could be administered by GPs.

"If we get two or three vaccines, which I suspect we will by the new year, then they will have different routes of distribution in my view," he said.

The 350million Covid vaccine doses on order

THE UK Government has pre-ordered 350million doses of six different Covid vaccines that are being developed

Pfizer's jab is the first that has been shown to be effective, but more results are expected in the coming weeks.

Here, we break down the other vaccines the government has secured:

Oxford/AstraZeneca: 100million doses

A weakened virus that causes colds in chimpanzees, it has been shown to generate a strong immune response against Covid-19.

It has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans, making it safe for children, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.

Currently in phase-3 trials in the UK, USA, South Africa, Japan, Brazil and Kenya, more than 50,000 test patients have been given the vaccine. Early reviews have shown it to be safe.

A company in Australia has already started making millions of vials in the expectation that trials will be successful.

Novavax: 60million doses

Contains purified piece of the virus that causes Covid-19. When it is administered, the body recognises it as “foreign” and mounts a protective immune response.

It has been shown to generate more antibodies than in patients recovering from severe Covid-19 infections.

Currently in phase-3 clinical trials in the UK and USA.

GSK/Sanofi: 60million doses

Uses the same protein as one of Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccines coupled with a booster.

In phase-1 clinical trials but early results have been positive.

Valneva: 60million doses

An inactivated whole virus vaccine designed to prompt the body into creating high levels of Covid-19 antibodies.

The government has invested in Valneva’s manufacturing facility in Livingston, Scotland, to create a major UK vaccine factory.

Currently in pre-trial research, with trials due to start in December.

Pfizer/BioNTech: 40million doses

Prevents Covid-19 infection by targeting the virus’s “spike protein”, effectively disabling it before it can cause any damage.

Tested on 40,000 patients, it is currently in phase-3 trials, but the first interim analysis has shown it is 90 per cent effective.

Janssen: 30million doses

Uses a modified common cold virus to act like a Trojan horse that can deploy the Covid-19 virus’s “spike protein” to human cells, causing the body to generate antibodies.

Phase-3 trials among 60,000 patients were recently halted temporarily after an unexplained illness in one volunteer. Trials have since resumed.

= 350million doses in total

"Some of them you administer just like the flu vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine needs a cold chain at minus 80.

"The idea that that'll be done through local GPs sounds a bit unlikely to me.

"I think they're going to have to have a bespoke solution for the Pfizer vaccine, which is absolutely worth it, but they will have to think quite hard about how they are going to do that."

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