Pfizer vaccine: Jonathan Van Tam suggests phase one rollout ‘aims to cut 99 per cent of Covid deaths’

Luke O'Reilly
·3-min read
<p>Coronavirus - Wed Dec 2, 2020</p> (PA)

Coronavirus - Wed Dec 2, 2020

(PA)

The phase one rollout of the Pfizer vaccine in the UK is aimed at cutting 99 per cent of the country’s coronavirus deaths, the deputy chief medical officer has suggested.

Professor Jonathan Van Tam said “it’s not an accident” that the Joint Committee on Vaccination’s (JCVI) priority list to receive the jab — which includes people over the age of 50, and those in at-risk groups — were the groups most likely to die with Covid-19.

“Taken together those groups, it’s not an accident that they take out — with a very effective vaccine and very high uptake — 99 per cent of Covid-related mortality, deaths in the UK", Prof Van Tam said.

"It’s not an accident that that’s how JCVI got to the phase one priority listing.”

Innoculations are expected to begin next week after the UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference the “searchlights of science” had picked out the “invisible enemy” as he welcomed the approval of the vaccine.

But the head of the NHS warned that difficulties in transporting the jab mean that the rollout would be staggered, with many care home residents needing to wait to be vaccinated.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, sad it would take until March or April for the entire at-risk population to be vaccinated.

He said that the jab has to be stored at such low temperatures that it can only be moved a few times, while the packs of doses – with 975 doses per pack – cannot be easily split.

It means the recommendation from the JCVI, which advises ministers, that care home residents and staff should be the top priority cannot yet be fully carried out.

Sir Simon told a Downing Street briefing that the first people to receive the jab from 50 hospital hubs next week would be the over-80s, care home staff and others identified by the JCVI who may already have a hospital appointment.

GP practices will then operate local vaccination centres as more vaccine becomes available and, if regulators give approval for a safe way of splitting packs, care homes will receive stocks, he added.

But later in the briefing, he insisted the NHS was “raring to go” to vaccinate people in care homes, hopefully this month.

“Just as soon as we have the regulatory sign-off that we can do that, that we can get the jabs to the care homes so that the GPs and the nurses can arrive and give the care home residents that Covid vaccination, we will do that,” he said.

“We – at this point, with a fair wind – fully expect that that will be in the first tranche of priorities for vaccination during this month.”

<p>The vaccine will begin roll-out from next week</p>AFP via Getty Images

The vaccine will begin roll-out from next week

AFP via Getty Images

However, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam told the conference that he believes that habits society has learned during the coronavirus crisis may persist "for many years".

“Do I think there will come a big moment where we have a massive party and throw our masks and hand sanitiser and say ‘that’s it, it’s behind us’, like the end of the war? No, I don’t", he said.

“I think those kind of habits that we have learned from… will, perhaps persist for many years, and that may be a good thing if they do.”

Mr Johnson responded, saying: “And, maybe… on the other hand, we may want to get back to life as pretty much as close to normal.”

It came on the day that England came out of its second national lockdown and into a new tiered system of coronavirus restrictions.

With reporting by PA

Read More

PM warns that ‘struggle is not over’ despite Pfizer vaccine approval

What is the difference between the Covid vaccines?

How has a Covid vaccine been approved so quickly?

Join our webinar of Covid experts for tips on coping with Christmas

Tiers debate: Matt Hancock reveals step-grandfather died from Covid