A coronavirus vaccine could start being distributed by Christmas, the UK Government has said.
After months of research and testing, a jab developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer cleared a “significant hurdle”, it has been reported.
It’s now been put forward for emergency approval with the UK Government hoping it could be available before the end of 2020.
It comes as Wales has returned to a national set of restrictions to tackle the virus, and England remains less than a week into its second national lockdown.
Here’s everything we know so far about the vaccine:
When will it be available?
The UK’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference he was “hopeful” there would be “some vaccine by Christmas”.
He said: “Frankly, we’re in the middle of the second wave, and I don’t see the vaccine making any difference for the wave we are now in.
“I’m hopeful that it may prevent future waves, but this one we have to battle through to the end without a vaccine.
“This is a very important scientific breakthrough. I am certain of that.
“I am hopeful because of all that, but not yet certain that we could begin to see some vaccine by Christmas.”
However, the vaccine will be rolled out to segments of the population, meaning it could be many months before it is available to everyone.
Who will be able to get it?
First Minister Mark Drakeford said how the vaccine will be used will be determined once it’s available.
Wales is part of the UK procurement scheme, meaning it will get a population share of the jab from the UK Government.
“That’s what’s already been agreed and when the vaccine comes to Wales, it’ll be the Welsh Government’s responsibility to store the vaccine and then to distribute it so that it can be used for the Welsh population,” Mr Drakeford said in a press conference.
He said Wales will determine how to use it across its population.
Wales’ health minister Vaughan Gething previously said the first recipients of any vaccine would be “the most vulnerable population”.
Where will I be able to get it?
Where the vaccine will be made available has not yet been confirmed in Wales. Before the announcement, Health boards had already started putting in place plans to roll out the vaccine to vulnerable groups and key workers first.
However, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee in England, Dr Richard Vautrey, said practices there would be ready to deliver the vaccine, with clinics potentially running from 8am-8pm, seven days a week.
The roll out will be backed by £150 million in support for GPs.
In addition to surgeries, the vaccine may also be delivered in England through care homes, pharmacists and vaccination centres set up in community venues, Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast.
He added that the NHS is working with the armed forces to ensure they are ready as soon as a vaccine is cleared.
How does it work?
The Pfizer vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, or messenger RNA vaccine, which uses only the virus’ genetic code.
An mRNA vaccine is injected into the body where it enters cells and tells them to create antigens. These antigens are recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.
Unlike with conventional vaccines, no actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine. This means the rate at which the vaccine can be produced is accelerated, according to PA.
The Pfizer mRNA vaccine is so far believed to be effective in 90% of people.
It is expected to be given to people in two doses, three weeks apart, according to the BBC.
It’s not yet clear whether the vaccine would at some point have to be administered again, or whether immunity is long lasting.
Will I be forced to get the vaccine?
Matt Hancock has said that vaccine uptake will be voluntary.
“We are not proposing to make this compulsory – not least because I think the vast majority of people are going to want to have it,” he told the BBC.
Will this end the pandemic?
First Minister Mark Drakeford has cautioned people thinking this vaccine will mark an end to the pandemic.
Speaking at a Welsh Government coronavirus briefing on Monday, he said: “It is good news, of course, if any of the vaccines in trials are making progress.
“[But] I think you would always want to read carefully what a particular competitor in this field says on their own behalf.
“I’m not going to be tempted today, as I’ve tried not to be tempted throughout coronavirus, to suggest that this somehow means that there is a magic bullet on the horizon and coronavirus is about to disappear out of our lives.”
Matt Hancock also refused to say when things might be back to normal.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “We want to get life back to normal as quickly as possible.
“I am not going to put a date on it because there are so many steps we need to go through.”