Fewer than HALF of Britons will get a coronavirus vaccine because doses will be saved for the most vulnerable, head of government’s task force admits
- Kate Bingham said around 30million will be given a potential life-saving jab
- She said ‘we just need to vaccinate everyone at risk’ like the elderly
- No one under the age of 18 will get the vaccine, Ms Bingham admitted
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock voiced his support for a prioritisation list
Kate Bingham told the Financial Times less than half of the UK population will get a coronavirus vaccine if one is produced
Less than half of Britain will get vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the head of the country’s vaccine task-force.
Kate Bingham claimed ministers are hoping around 30million people will receive the potentially life-saving jab, out of a total of almost 67million.
She said ‘we just need to vaccinate everyone at risk’, revealing that no-one under the age of 18 will receive a dose. Ms Bingham told the Financial Times that vaccinating everyone was ‘not going to happen’.
Care home residents and staff will be the first to get a Covid-19 vaccine when one is approved, government advice states. Everyone over the age of 80 and NHS staff will be second in line.
Ms Bingham’s comments come after Matt Hancock yesterday confirmed that the military would be involved in distributing a coronavirus vaccine.
No 10 has already secured 340million doses of seven potential vaccines candidates produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University; BioNTech and Pfizer; Valneva; Novavax; Johnson & Johnson; GlaxoSmithKline and Imperial College London.
None of the jabs have yet been proven to work, and are currently in scientific trials. Experts say it is likely people will need two doses of each vaccine to be protected against the coronavirus.
The head of the immunisation programme said ‘we just need to vaccinate everyone at risk’, meaning the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, will be prioritised (file photo)
Ms Bingham, who was appointed chair of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce for Covid-19 in May this year, attempted to dispel claims that everyone in the British population would be vaccinated if a jab was proven effective against the coronavirus.
It comes after months of ministers and other health officials claiming a jab could be rolled out by Christmas. The first promise was that it would be ready by September.
Ms Bingham told the Financial Times: ‘People keep talking about “time to vaccinate the whole population” but that is misguided.
‘There is going to be no vaccination of people under 18. It’s an adult-only vaccine for people over 50 focusing on health workers and care home workers and the vulnerable.’
Updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation states vaccines will be rolled out in the following order:
- older adults’ resident in a care home and care home workers
- all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
- all those 75 years of age and over
- all those 70 years of age and over
- all those 65 years of age and over
- high-risk adults under 65 years of age with underlying health woes
- moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age with underlying health woes
- all those 60 years of age and over
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over
- rest of the population (priority to be determined)
Ms Bingham said vaccinations would be aimed at those ‘most at risk’.
She added that vaccinating healthy people, who are much less likely to have severe outcomes from Covid-19, ‘could cause them some freak harm’, the FT claims.
It is not clear what she meant by this. But it comes after the Oxford’s vaccine trials were paused earlier in September due to a serious side effect in a healthy, British woman aged 37.
Experts, including No10’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief executive of AstraZeneca, which owns the right to the vaccine, said the event was not unusual for a large scale experimental drug trial.
It is hoped Oxford scientists will know if their jab prevents at least 50 per cent of infections, considered the threshold for success by the World Health Organization, by the end of this year.
Ms Bingham said that if any vaccine was proven to be 95 per cent effective, which is thought to be unlikely given the short time frame scientists have been working in, it may be given to a larger number of people.
Last month it was reported by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that care home residents were among those who should be at the top of the list for a jab when one becomes available.
Everyone over the age of 80 and NHS staff will be second in line, the updated government guidance stated.
The body, which consists of 20 top scientists, advises ministers on all vaccines. It admitted its guidance for any UK Covid-19 vaccination scheme is likely to change in the future.
Matt Hancock previously pledged that Britons with underlying conditions would be near the front of the queue for any jab.
But millions living with heart disease or other ailments that raise their risk of dying of Covid-19 won’t be vaccinated until everyone over the age of 65 is inoculated, according to the new guidance.
The Health Secretary voiced his support for the prioritisation list at the virtual Conservative Party conference.
He described prioritisation as ‘important because we’ve got to get the vaccine to the people who are most likely to be badly affected by coronavirus first’.
‘But it is also important because people can know in advance that there is a prioritisation and we will reach people when it is clinically right to do that.
‘And then there’s a huge logistical operation which we’re planning, led by the NHS with the support of the armed services to make sure we have the logistics in place to get this rolled out as fast as it is feasibly possible.’
Sir Patrick believes it is ‘more likely’ that a vaccine will be ready for the nation ‘over the first half of next year’.
He claimed in a televised address to the nation on September 21 that it is ‘possible’ one of the dozens of experimental jabs being trialed on humans could be ready by Christmas, insisting ‘good progress’ was being made.
He said: ‘It is possible that some vaccine could be available before the end of the year in small amounts for certain groups.’
Meanwhile, it was reported over the weekend coronavirus vaccination in the UK could be just three months away and every adult could receive a dose as soon as Easter.
The Times quoted Government sources involved in the vaccination process as saying they expect a full distribution programme to take six months or less after approval, but it could be even quicker.
Last week a Royal Society report warned there would be significant challenges in distributing and producing the vaccine on such a mass scale.
Nilay Shah, head of the department of chemical engineering at Imperial College London, and a co-author of the report, said: ‘Even when the vaccine is available it doesn’t mean within a month everybody is going to be vaccinated.
‘We’re talking about six months, nine months… a year. There’s not a question of life suddenly returning to normal in March.’
Matt Hancock told viewers of the virtual Conservative Party conference yesterday that the armed forces will be involved in the roll-out of the medicine in order to get it to as many people as possible.
The Health Secretary told the virtual Tory conference that ‘the plans are in train’ to combine the NHS and the armed forces to make ‘the roll-out happen’.
Number 10 has already bought 340million doses of seven different experimental jabs, including the front-runner created by Oxford University researchers.
The jab, being mass-manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, has yet to be proven to work but early studies have shown it is promising.
Scientists working on the Oxford vaccine have suggested it could be approved by regulators before the start of next year.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘We want as many people as possible to access a Covid-19 vaccine and we are considering the advice of the independent Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation on which groups of people to prioritise.
‘The committee’s interim advice is the vaccine should first be given to care home residents and staff, followed by people over 80 and health and social care workers, then to the rest of the population in order of age and risk.
‘An enormous amount of planning and preparation has taken place across Government to quickly roll out a safe and effective vaccine.’
WHICH VACCINES HAVE THE UK SECURED DEALS FOR?
1. GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur: 60million doses
The Government revealed on July 29 it had signed a deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur
If the vaccine proves successful, the UK could begin to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk from coronavirus, as early as the first half of next year, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.
Human clinical studies of the vaccine will begin in September followed by a phase 3 study in December.
The vaccine is based on the existing technology used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. Genetic material from the surface protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is inserted into insect cells – the basis of Sanofi’s influenza product – and then injected to provoke an immune response in a human patient.
2. AstraZeneca (manufacturing University of Oxford’s): 100million
AstraZeneca, which is working in partnership with Oxford University, is already manufacturing the experimental vaccine after a deal was struck on May 17.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the Oxford team, is confident the jab could be ready for the most vulnerable people by the end of the year.
Her comments came after the results from the first phase, published in The Lancet on July 20, showed promise.
The team have genetically engineered a virus to look like the coronavirus – to have the same spike proteins on the outside – but be unable to cause any infection inside a person. This virus, weakened by genetic engineering, is a type of virus called an adenovirus, the same as those which cause common colds, that has been taken from chimpanzees.
3. BioNTech/Pfizer: 30million
US drug giant Pfizer – most famous for making Viagra – and German firm BioNTech were revealed to have secured a deal with the UK Government on July 20.
It reported positive results from the ongoing phase 2/3 clinical trial of one called BNT162b1 on July 1. The company is still running phase 2 trials at the moment.
Pfizer’s vaccine is one called an mRNA vaccine, which do not directly inject bits of the virus into the body but send genetic material.
mRNA vaccines programme the body to produce parts of the virus itself by injecting the body with a molecule that tells disease-fighting cells what to build. The immune system then learns how to fight it.
4. Valneva: 60million
The Government has given Valneva — whose vaccine is understood to be in the preclinical stages of development — an undisclosed amount of money to expand its factory in Livingston, Scotland.
While the Government revealed a 60million dose deal on July 20, the company said it had reached agreement in principle with the UK government to provide up to 100million doses.
Valneva’s jab is an inactivated whole virus vaccine, meaning it injects a damaged version of the coronavirus itself into the body.
The virus has been destroyed in a way that makes it unable to cause infection, but the body still recognises it as a dangerous intruder and therefore mounts an immune response which it can remember in case of a real Covid-19 infection.
5. Janssen (Johnson & Johnson): 30million
The Government has agreed to buy 30million doses of a vaccine made by Janssen if it works.
Officials have agreed to help the company in its development of the jab by part-funding a global clinical trial. The first in-human trials of Janssen’s jab began in mid-July and are being done on adults over the age of 18 in the US and Belgium.
The jab is named Ad26.COV2-S, recombinant, and is a type of jab called a viral vector recombinant vaccine.
Proteins that appear on the outside of the coronavirus are reproduced in a lab and then injected into the body to stimulate an immune reaction.
The ‘Ad’ part of the vaccine’s name means it works using an adenovirus – a virus best known for causing the common cold – as a vehicle to transport the coronavirus genetics into the body.
6. Novavax: 60million
Britain has ordered 60million doses of a vaccine being developed by the US-based company Novavax. It will help to fund late-stage clinical trials in the UK and also boost plans to manufacture the vaccine in Britain.
Novavax’s jab, named NVX-CoV2373, showed positive results in early clinical trials.
It produced an immune response in 100 per cent of people who received it, the company said, and was safe and ‘generally well-tolerated’.
Novavax’s candidate is also a recombinant vaccine and transports the spike proteins found on the outside of the coronavirus into the body in order to provoke the immune system.
7. Imperial College London: Unknown quantity
Imperial College London scientists are working on Britain’s second home-grown hope for a jab. The candidate is slightly behind Oxford’s vaccine in terms of its progress through clinical trials, but is still a major player.
The UK Government is understood to have agreed to buy the vaccine if it works but details of a deal have not yet been publicised.
Imperial’s jab is currently in second-phase human trials after early tests showed it appeared to be safe.
Imperial College London will try to deliver genetic material (RNA) from the coronavirus which programs cells inside the patient’s body to recreate the spike proteins. It will transport the RNA inside liquid droplets injected into the bloodstream.
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