A coronavirus vaccine could potentially be launched next month.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has formally asked the Medicines Agency to evaluate the Pfizer / BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use in the UK.
He described it as “another important step forward in combating this pandemic”.
But he said while regulatory approval of a vaccine slated for a rollout in the next month, “there is still a long way to go”.
Here’s everything you need to know about the vaccine roll out plans, what coronavirus jabs are in development, and what the experts have to say.
Who is developing the coronavirus vaccines?
The front runners in the Covid-19 vaccine race are the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which works with German biotech company BioNTech, Oxford University, AstraZeneca and US company Moderna.
Interim results for Moderna’s sting suggest it could be 94.5% effective against Covid-19.
Pfizer / BioNTech has released data suggesting their vaccine is 95% effective against Covid-19.
Data from the Phase 2 study for the Oxford vaccine, published Thursday, suggest the bite elicits a strong immune response in older adults.
More results proving its effectiveness are expected to be released in the coming weeks.
When will the vaccines be ready?
Mr Hancock said if the Medicines and Health Products regulator (MHRA) approves a vaccine, rollout could begin in December.
However, he warned that the speed of the roll-out would depend on the speed at which it could be made.
He said, “When the regulator approves a vaccine, we’ll be ready to start vaccinating next month with most of the rollout in the new year.
“We are going in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.”
Sir John Bell, who is part of the Oxford vaccine team, anticipates two or three puffs will be available by the New Year.
What is the MHRA?
The MHRA is an executive agency of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs.
It serves to protect and improve public health and supports innovation through scientific research and development.
Its responsibilities include ensuring that medicines meet applicable safety, quality and efficacy standards and ensuring that the supply chain for these medicines is safe.
The agency employs more than 1,200 people with offices in London, York and Hertfordshire.
How long does the vaccine approval process take?
Mr. Hancock emphasized the independence of the MHRA and said he did not want to “prejudice”.
When asked what assurances he had received from the Medicines Agency regarding the length of his trial, he said, “It is absolutely a question for them how long they will take, I will not pre-judge that at all.”
He added, “I don’t even want to give the impression that they are trying to compromise their independence.”
Mr. Hancock said the Pfizer / BioNTech filing with the US Food and Drug Administration “gave us the confidence to officially start the process here”.
He said by law this would first require the government to ask the MHRA to consider approving a vaccine.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s assistant chief physician, said the assessment will “come at the speed of science and we must leave it to them and trust them to move on”.
How is a vaccine introduced?
The UK government has received 40 million doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, approximately 10 million of which will arrive before the end of this year.
It also has an “initial agreement” for five million doses of the Moderna vaccine, if approved.
The UK authorities have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine – enough to vaccinate most of the population – should it get regulatory approval.
Mr Hancock said the military and NHS staff are ready to roll out a vaccine across the UK by early December and are working on it “seven days a week”.
Delivery takes place via nursing homes, general practitioners and pharmacists as well as vaccination centers set up in sports halls.
Mr Hancock said the UK will be among the first in the world to be able to do so.
Are there any logistical problems?
According to Hancock, the Oxford vaccine was easier to use than Pfizer’s, which must be stored at minus 70 ° C and is made in Belgium.
He said that after leaving the factory in Belgium, the Pfizer vaccine can only be withdrawn four times from minus 70 ° C before being injected into a patient’s arm.
While it will be a “mammoth logistics operation”, Mr. Hancock said he “has confidence” that it can be delivered.
Is the Vaccine Safe?
All vaccines are rigorously tested and monitored by experienced regulatory agencies.
According to Moderna, the safety data available does not suggest any significant safety concerns.
Their studies found that the vaccine was generally safe and well tolerated, and the majority of adverse events were mild or moderate.
The Pfizer sting is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.
Traditional vaccines are made using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs only use the virus’ genetic code.
They instruct the cells in the body to make antigens that are recognized by the immune system and prepare them to fight the coronavirus.
Some believe that mRNA vaccines are safer for the patient because they do not rely on any element of the virus being injected into the body.
The Pfizer vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns were raised.
With the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine – known as ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 – no serious adverse health events related to the sting were observed in study participants.
Who will get a vaccine first?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) has been looking into data on who has the worst results from the coronavirus and who is at the highest risk of death.
The preliminary guidelines state that older adults in nursing homes and nursing home workers should have priority, followed by those aged 80 and over, and health and social workers.
Leaked NHS documents, viewed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), appear to suggest that all adults in England – of all ages – could be vaccinated against Covid-19 before the end of January if care allows.
Under the plan, any adult who wants a sting could be vaccinated by early April, the HSJ said.
What other vaccines are there?
More than 200 coronavirus vaccine candidates are being tested worldwide.
About 12 of them are in the final testing phase, but Pfizer is the first to report results.
Other potential vaccines in phase 3 trials are vaccines from the biotech company Novavax.
Does this mean that life will soon be back to normal?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “becoming more and more confident” that life would be closer to normal by spring.
Regarding England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, who previously said he hoped for a return to more normalcy by spring, Hancock said, “And with this (vaccination) news that we have had over the past few weeks and with the expansion of had mass tests I’m more and more confident that he’s right. “
However, Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and a member of the government’s vaccine task force, previously said there was a chance that normalcy could resume after Easter provided “they don’t screw up the vaccine distribution “. .
David Nabarro, Co-Director of the Institute for Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, said, “Even if a vaccine arrives in the near future, we will have many months to deal with the virus as a constant threat and I need to make sure we continue do everything possible to solve the virus that is causing big problems. “