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Pfizer coronavirus vaccine could lead to ‘two or three Covid jabs by New Year’

A scientific adviser has said he wouldn't be surprised if we "hit the new year with two or three coronavirus vaccines" which are ready to be distributed.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, told MPs the announcement by Pfizer and BioNTech had made him "quite optimistic" of enough Covid-19 vaccinations being carried out by Easter for normality to begin to resume – provided authorities do not "screw up" distribution of the jab.

A member of the Government's vaccine task force, he said there was a 70 to 80% chance that the most vulnerable among the population could be vaccinated by Easter.

During a Commons session on coronavirus, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt asked: "What are your percentage chances in this situation of getting to Easter and having vaccinated the vulnerable, the most vulnerable parts of our population, so that post-Easter we could think about resuming to normality?"

Appearing before MPs on Tuesday, Prof Bell replied: "I think we've got a 70, 80% chance of doing that.

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"That's provided they don't screw up the distribution of the vaccine, that's not my job.

"But provided they don't screw that up, it'll all be fine."

Initial results from the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its vaccine partner BioNTech suggest their jab was 90% effective at protecting people from Covid-19.

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Sir John told MPs on Tuesday: "I think this journey to a vaccine has been a long journey and I think there's a risk that people will underestimate the importance of the announcement yesterday.

"The big challenge here was to find a vaccine that actually had efficacy against this virus.

"There are many pathogens for which we have looked for decades and not found a vaccine that works."

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Prof Bell called the announcement a "massive step forward", adding: "It also signals, I think, that many of the other vaccines that have the same immunogenicity are likely also to be efficacious.

"So I wouldn't be surprised if we hit the new year with two or three vaccines, all of which could be distributed.

"And that's why I'm quite optimistic of getting enough vaccinations done in the first quarter of next year that by spring things will start to look much more normal than they do now."

Appearing before a joint session of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee, Prof Bell said it was "unlikely" that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would be administered by GPs.

"If we get two or three vaccines, which I suspect we will by the new year, then they will have different routes of distribution in my view," he said.

"Some of them you administer just like the flu vaccine.

"The Pfizer vaccine needs a cold chain at minus 80."

He added: "The idea that that'll be done through local GPs sounds a bit unlikely to me.

"I think they're going to have to have a bespoke solution for the Pfizer vaccine, which is absolutely worth it, but they will have to think quite hard about how they are going to do that."

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