Matt Hancock warns he ‘won’t deploy’ Covid vaccine if safety standards fail ‘more hurdles’

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Matt Hancock welcomed news of the development of a viable coronavirus vaccine by Pfizer as a significant “step forward” but warned Britons still face more hurdles before the inoculation is made widely available. The Health Secretary insisted the Government will want reassurances that the vaccine has no significant side effects and he confirmed he is ready to shelve plans to distribute millions of doses if there is no guarantee of safety. Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Hancock said: “There are many steps that still need to be taken.

“Perhaps the most important to stress is that we’ve seen the effectiveness data but we will not licence a vaccine unless it is clinically safe.

“And we haven’t seen the final safety data so that is the biggest hurdle still to come.

“If that fails, then it doesn’t matter how effective this vaccine is, we won’t deploy it.”

Mr Hancock also warned the rolling out of the vaccine is likely to develop into an additional issue for the Government because of the large doses needed to vaccinate the whole of the UK.

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The Health Secretary already confirmed NHS staff and social carers will be among the first groups to be inoculated, followed by Britons aged 65 and over, and vulnerable people with pre-existing conditions.

Mr Hancock continued: “Then there’s an enormous challenge of the rollout.

“We’ve bought doses for 20 million people, 40 million doses in total. It takes two doses taken two days apart, it needs to be stored until the last few hours before deployment at -70C.

“This is going to be a colossal effort to roll this out which the NHS is leading, we’ve been working on it for months in anticipation of this going right.

He added: “We haven’t got a vaccine yet, we’re not there yet but we are one important step closer and we’ll be ready to deploy it.”

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Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced on Monday their experimental coronavirus vaccine had proved to be more than 90 percent effective after large scale clinical testing.

The news sparked hope across the world about people being able to resume their normal lives someday soon, with Oxford scholar Sir John Bell suggesting routine could return by Spring.

Sir John said: “I am really delighted with this result – it shows that you can make a vaccine against this little critter. Ninety percent is an amazing level of efficacy.

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“It rolls the pitch for other vaccines because I can’t see any reason now why we shouldn’t have a handful of good vaccines.”

And when asked whether the clinical results showed normalcy could resume soon, Sir John said: “Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am probably the first guy to say that but I will say that with some confidence.”

The Government has confirmed the UK struck six supply deals so far for vaccine candidates, including the one resulting from the Pfizer and BioNTech collaboration and another under development by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

A spokesman for the Government said: “In total, we have procured 40 million doses of the Pfizer candidate vaccine with 10 million of those doses being manufactured and available to the UK by the end of the year if the vaccine is approved by the regulators.”

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