November marked a great milestone in the fight against COVID-19, with the announcement that the Pfizer & BioNTech vaccine offered 90% protection, with many describing it as a “great day for science and humanity.” England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty took to Twitter following the news, stating that: “It is essential we continue to suppress COVID, but it is a reason for optimism for 2021.”
Even with the setbacks experienced in the trials of other COVID-19 vaccines such as the Sinovac trials pausing in Brazil in November and the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine trials pausing in September, the news of the Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine has given the world much hope that we might be one step closer to the end of the pandemic.
Ever since the announcement, governments worldwide have started planning and organising the logistics around the mass rollout once the vaccines have successfully completed their final stage of testing.
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has stated that the NHS is prepared to distribute the vaccine as early as next month. The government has currently secured 30 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. If given the greenlight, it will first be given to the most vulnerable in our society, including those over 50 and immunocompromised people, and those who work in close contact with them such as care workers and hospital staff.
The NHS will aim to vaccinate 1 million people per week with the creation of new facilities that will be set up to assist with the mass rollout. Each person will require 2 doses of the vaccine, a month apart.
The mass rollout of the vaccine is expected to happen in early 2021, but this is also dependent on the other vaccines currently in development receiving the greenlight for mass usage. Once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, the vaccine will then be given to those who are more likely to “transmit COVID-19”; as a result, Matt Hancock has stated that vaccines will not be given to children.
The government has outlined that they currently have agreements in place to secure 60 million doses of the vaccine developed by Valneva, and a further 40 million doses if the vaccine proves to be “safe, effective and suitable”, alongside 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine for those who are immunocompromised.
The news and speed of the development of a coronavirus vaccine has given us a hope that this ordeal might soon be over. Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed the news was a sign of “scientific cavalry” during a news conference in Downing Street, he added that “there is a long way before we have got this thing beat.”