The NHS is ready to start vaccinating the coronavirus next month with regulatory approval.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street press conference that the government has now taken the “first step” to approve a COVID-19 vaccine in the UK.
Ministers have made a formal request to the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) to evaluate the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in the UK.
The jab proved a 95% efficacy rate in the company’s phase 3 clinical study.
Image: The government has officially requested a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine evaluation from a UK regulatory agency.
Hancock said the company has already started submitting data to MHRA and will submit full data within the next few days.
“This is another important step towards addressing this epidemic,” the Health Minister added.
“If the vaccine is approved, it is of course available across the UK through the NHS, it is provided free of charge at the time of delivery as needed and is incapable of paying.”
Hancock said that once MHRA approves the vaccine, “we are ready to start vaccinating next month and there will be a lot of services coming out in the new year.”
“We are on the right track, but we still have a long way to go. Currently, the coronavirus remains a serious risk,” he added.
The press conference was announced as an additional 511 people died after testing positive for COVID-19 and 2,252 coronavirus cases were confirmed in the UK.
England’s Vice Minister of Medicine said he believes the UK is “on the way” to launch a vaccine.
But Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who appeared remotely at a press conference with the “home contact” latter quarantined, warned that vaccine delivery might not be “completely simple”.
He added: “Do you accept that sometimes when you’re on the gliding path you can side wind and landing isn’t completely simple and not entirely textbook?”
Professor Van-Tam warned that if people do not follow the coronavirus restrictions enforced before and after Christmas, the infection rate “will recover again”.
However, he dismissed the idea that there was a “magic number” of how many additional days per day would need an extra limit during which the COVID rules could be relaxed during the festival.
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Earlier this week, it was suggested that the UK could face additional lockdowns for almost a month in exchange for a five-day release from the restrictions on Christmas.
The British government and the mandated administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland held talks on a joint approach for Christmas, hoping that all four countries would loosen current restrictions so that more families could gather.
But Hancock said “it’s too early to tell” what rules will apply for Christmas or what restrictions might be needed if the UK’s current blockade ends on Dec. 2.
“I don’t think I have made that decision yet,” he said.
The health secretary said he had “more confidence” that life would be close to normal in spring.
And he added that the UK is “close to the peak” of the second wave of coronavirus infection.
Earlier on Friday, the National Bureau of Statistics (ONS) revealed that the rates of COVID-19 in the UK and Scotland appear to have “leveled”.
It also said interest rates are falling in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the government’s Emergency Scientific Advisory Group (SAGE) said the UK-wide reproductive count, or R value, fell between 1 and 1.1.
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