Health secretary starts vaccine approval process for ‘New Year roll-out’

PUBLISHED: 18:58 20 November 2020 | UPDATED: 19:01 20 November 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: Trevor Adams/Daily Mail/PA Wire

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: Trevor Adams/Daily Mail/PA Wire

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said that he has formally asked the regulator to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use in the UK.

It comes as leaked NHS documents reportedly show all adults in England - of any age - could start to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before the end of January if supplies allow.

Under the plan, every adult who wants a jab could be vaccinated by early April, according to the NHS England’s draft Covid-19 vaccine deployment programme dated November 13 seen by the Health Service Journal.

MORE: Number of coronavirus patients at county’s largest hospital up 60%

Mr Hancock told a Downing Street press briefing Pfizer/BioNTech had already begun submitting data to the regulator and would submit its full data in the coming days.

“This is another important step forward in tackling this pandemic,” he said.

He said the speed of the roll-out of a vaccine would depend on the speed it could be manufactured.

“If the regulator approves a vaccine we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of roll-out in the new year.

“We are heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go.”

Asked what assurances he had been given by the medicines regulator - the MHRA - over how long its process takes, he said: “It is absolutely a question for them how long they take, I’m not going to pre-judge that at all.”

He added: “I don’t want to even give any impression of trying to impinge on their independence.”

MORE: Daily coronavirus cases in Norfolk soar again

Mr Hancock said he understood people were anxious to send Christmas with family but said it is still too early to say what contact people will be able to have and what additional restrictions may be required after lockdown is eased.

Coronavirus testing centre. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireCoronavirus testing centre. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

He said: “We’re doing the work on what happens after December 2 right now, it’s still too early to tell. I’m afraid we still haven’t made those decisions.

“Over Christmas I know how important it is that we have a system in place, a set of rules that both keeps people safe but also allows people to see their loved ones.”

Latest reports from the UK’s statistics agencies show a total of 70,254 deaths involving Covid-19 have taken place in the UK.

There had been a further 20,252 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,473,508.

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