Coronavirus: Health Secretary Matt Hancock doesn't expect vaccine rollout until 'first half of 2021'

·2-min read

Matt Hancock has dampened hopes a COVID-19 vaccine will be ready before Christmas - but refused to rule out the possibility some people may receive it this year.

The health secretary said his "central expectation" was that a vaccine rollout could be under way in the first half of 2021, with the "bulk" of it expected before next summer.

It follows a report by The Sun newspaper that London health chiefs are on standby to receive deliveries of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab from the "week commencing 2 November".

Mr Hancock said: "On my central expectation, I would expect the bulk of the rollout to be in the first half of next year."

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When asked about reports that hospitals are preparing to vaccinate staff, Mr Hancock added: "We want to be ready in case everything goes perfectly."

"But it's not my central expectation that we'll be doing that this year."

He also told the BBC's Today programme: "But, you know, preparing for a rollout and actually having the stuff to roll out are two different things.

"It's obviously something that we want to happen as soon as safely can be done. And as fast as safely can be done, but we are not there yet."

Although, he refused to completely rule out some coronavirus jabs this year.

"Well, I don't rule that out, but that is not my central expectation," he said.

The COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is widely considered to be one of the frontrunners in the global race for a vaccine.

Results of a trial showed the jab produces an immune response in both the elderly and young, AstraZeneca said on Monday. The vaccine also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly.

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The findings echo results from July that show the vaccine produced "robust immune responses" amongst healthy adults aged between 18 and 55.

An AstraZeneca spokesperson said the findings were "encouraging" and "further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunity" capabilities of the vaccine.

AstraZeneca has signed several supply and manufacturing deals with companies and governments around the world as it gets closer to reporting early results of a late-stage clinical trial. The UK government has signed a deal for 100 million doses.

The vaccine is in Phase 3 trials - the last stage before a treatment is declared safe - in multiple countries, including the US and India.