There will be at least 10 million doses of Pfizer’s new coronavirus vaccine available in the UK by the end of December, according to a spokesperson for prime minister Boris Johnson.
It will be the first part of a huge order: "In total, we have procured 40 million doses of the Pfizer candidate vaccine with 10 million of those doses being manufactured and available to the UK by the end of the year if the vaccine is approved by the regulators," the spokesman said.
The only obstacle now will be official sign-off on the candidate vaccine from UK regulators.
Sir John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford University, says that organising the distribution of the vaccine would be "challenging" but that the UK was well-placed to benefit once it becomes available.
The professor, who has been advising the government on its Covid-19 strategy, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "They will obviously start in the US – that's probably appropriate. BioNTech is a German company so there will be, I am sure, doses made available for Europe."
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According to Sir John, the government has only ordered thirty million doses.
He said: "The UK has done a pre-approval agreement to purchase up 30 million doses of this vaccine, so we are very well prepared to get access to this vaccine when it becomes available.
"The manufacturing challenges are not small, so people need to be ready to wait a bit to get it."
England is currently under a second national lockdown, as part of an effort to contain a soaring second wave of coronavirus infections, but Boris Johnson says that these new prospects of a vaccine are one cause for optimism that the situation will improve by spring.
"The results are promising and while we are optimistic of a breakthrough we must remember there are no guarantees.
"We will know whether the vaccine is both safe and effective once the safety data has been published and only then can licensing authorities consider making it available to the public," a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said.
"In the meantime, the NHS stands ready to begin the vaccination programme for those most at risk once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, before being rolled out more widely."
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