- The UK government hopes to release a coronavirus vaccine later this year.
- England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, told MEPs that the vaccine, developed at Oxford University, could be ready by Christmas.
- This would allow the vaccination of older, vulnerable and key workers to begin in the New Year.
- The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson said this week that there were “some very encouraging signs” of a vaccine, “not least from the Oxford AstraZeneca trials”.
- However, he warned that “it cannot be taken for granted”
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The UK government hopes the coronavirus vaccine will be available by December, the report said.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, told parliament this week that the vaccine, which is being developed at Oxford University with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, could be made available to high-priority groups in time for the New Year, according to The Times of London newspaper.
He reportedly told lawmakers: “We are not light years away. It is not a completely unrealistic assumption that we can deploy a vaccine soon after Christmas. This would have a significant impact on hospital admissions and deaths.”
An MP attending the briefing told the newspaper that Van-Tam was “very bullied about the results of the third stage of AstraZeneca, which he expects between the end of this month and the end of next.”
If a vaccine is developed, Boris Johnson’s government plans to initially offer it to older people, vulnerable and key workers, to significantly reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. According to reports, Van-Tam told lawmakers that this would make it difficult for very young people infected with the virus to pass it on to people at greater risk.
Thousands of National Health Service employees will receive vaccination training before the end of the year, according to a report by The Times in London.
Professor Van-Tam’s comments come as Britain faces a second outbreak of the virus, with the Johnson government imposing a number of local blockades in a bid to tackle the growing number of new infections across the country.
The UK prime minister insisted this week he called on lawmakers to ease their expectations of the virus, warning them that not developing a vaccine for Sars shows that “this cannot be taken for granted”.
Asked by Conservative MP Steve Baker on Monday to provide a specific timeline for developing a vaccine, Johnson said: “Alas, I can not give him a date until which I can confidently promise that we will have a vaccine.
“There are some very encouraging signs, not least of the tests conducted at Oxford AstraZeneca.
“But, as he knows, Sars took place 18 years ago, we still don’t have a vaccine for Sars. I don’t want to depress him, but we have to be realistic about it.
“There’s a good chance of a vaccine, but it can’t be taken for granted.”
Until and unless a vaccine is developed, the Johnson government hopes that improving the testing regime in the UK plus developing new therapeutic treatments will ease the suppression of the virus and reduce the need for strict restrictions on blocking.