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Speaking to Express.co.uk, the Buckingham University Medical School’s Professor said claims a coronavirus vaccine would be ready to be administered by Christmas were for the birds. Professor Sikora, who believes the solution to the pandemic is not to enter endless cycles of lockdowns but to drastically reform the test and trace system, also reassured the NHS is not as overwhelmed as the Government is making the public believe.
He said: “The vaccine will come along and everyone will be happy by Christmas?
“It’s not going to be like that. And the only reason for doing a lockdown, the only valid reason for doing a lockdown is if the NHS was going to be overwhelmed and at the moment less than 10 percent of inpatients have Covid.
“Not only that many of the people that are labelled as having Covid are actually in hospital for other things that, oh, but they’ve also got multiple other illnesses and they would be there anyway.
“And it happens every winter, every winter from October on, once you get more and more elderly people coming into NHS beds and what’s got worse over the cycle of the last 10 years is because of reduction in social services, it’s difficult to plan the discharge of these people from hospital.
“So they sit there, we’re not allowed to call them bed blockers, but that’s what they are.
“They sit there, they block the bed, so you can’t do routine surgery and so waiting lists go up because of it. And no one’s found a good solution for this.”
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the military and NHS staff are on standby to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine across the UK from the start of December and will work “seven days a week”.
Mr Hancock said there were many hurdles to overcome before the “vast task” of vaccination could begin, including regulatory approval of the new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and assessment of its safety data.
But he said the NHS was leading work to get a vaccine to those most in need as soon as possible, though most people will not get a jab until 2021.
Asked whether it could be available by Christmas, Mr Hancock said that was “absolutely a possibility”, adding that vaccination clinics would be open seven days a week.
He told Sky News: “I’ve asked the NHS who are supported by the armed services in this – but the NHS very much leading this effort for deploying the vaccine – I’ve asked them to be ready from the start of December.
“And, of course, there are many hurdles that still need to be gone over and we haven’t seen the full safety data and obviously that is critical and we won’t deploy a vaccine unless we can be confident in its clinical safety.
“But we also do need to be ready should a vaccine be licensed and get through all those hurdles and ready to roll it out.”
Mr Hancock said it had always been his expectation that most people will not get a jab until 2021, with priority given to those in care homes, the elderly and health and social care staff.
“We’ve always been clear that our central expectation for the rollout of a vaccine should a vaccine come good… the central expectation of the bulk of the rollout and deployment has always been in the first part of 2021,” he said.
The Health Secretary said that once a vaccine becomes available, it will be delivered through care homes, GPs and pharmacists, as well as “go-to” vaccination centres set up in venues such as sports halls.
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“We will be working across the NHS with the support of the armed forces seven days a week, over weekends, over bank holidays, to get this rolled out into people’s arms as quickly as possible,” he told BBC Breakfast.
He said the exact model would depend on which vaccine was adopted, with Oxford University and AstraZeneca expected to release results of their vaccine shortly.
“The Pfizer vaccine needs to be held at minus 70C until the last few hours before it is deployed, which obviously makes things more complicated,” Mr Hancock said.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine is a bit easier to deploy logistically.”
He said the vaccine would not be required for children and that uptake would 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 said.
Mr Hancock urged people not to drop their guard and stop following the rules around social distancing, saying coronavirus is “still a deadly disease”.
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