Britain could be “ready” to roll out Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine from December 1, the health secretary has claimed.
Matt Hancock this morning said the government was “working very closely” with the drug giant.
He told BBC Breakfast that the UK would be ready to deploy its breakthrough jab “as soon as it comes”.
He added: “We’ll be ready from the first of December… but more likely is that we may be able to start rolling it out before Christmas.”
Mr Hancock said the number of vaccines Britain would need depended on how effective it is at preventing coronavirus spreading.
The jab stops nine in ten people from falling ill with Covid-19 but it’s not clear if it prevents them infecting others, Pfizer and German partner BioNTech announced last week.
Meanwhile, scientists today started testing another coronavirus vaccine on 6,000 people in the UK.
Britain is to get 30million doses of that jab from pharmaceutical firm Janssen by the middle of next year.
The two jabs are among 350million doses of six vaccines No10 has secured early access to.
Another – by Oxford University and AstraZeneca – is reportedly on track to be published later this week.
Dr Mary Ramsey, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said the vaccine candidate from Pfizer posed a “challenge” because it needs to be stored at minus 80C.
She told BBC Breakfast: “The Pfizer vaccine would have to be stored in hubs in each region and then delivered to GPs.
“We will have hubs around the country that will be storing it. Some of them are in hospitals where they have those very low freezers, but also… maybe some wholesalers in particular parts of the country.”
She added that Public Health England is developing training so healthcare assistants will be able to help deliver a Covid-19 vaccine.
Brits won’t be forced to take the jab and there are fears many won’t take them due to anti-vax conspiracy theories online.
Mr Hancock told Times Radio this morning: “Being opposed to vaccinations where they have been through the rigorous safety processes is entirely inappropriate.
“And I wouldn’t advise it for anybody, because we don’t propose, and allow vaccines in this country, unless they pass some of the most stringent safety requirements in the world.
“Getting a vaccine – whether it’s for flu or hopefully for coronavirus – is something that not only protects you but protects the people around you. So it’s a really important step.”
He added: “The whole of medicine is the story of advances that are based on science and vaccines are one of the most important advances based on science in the history of medicine.
“And other than clean water have probably saved more lives than anything else in the history of humanity.
“That’s what the science tells us, and I think that we should be guided by that science.”