Covid vaccine 'likely to be given to everyone over 50 who needs it by Easter'

·2-min read
Kate Bingham, the head of the UK Vaccine taskforce, takes part in a vaccine trial at the Royal Free Hospital, north London - Kirsty O'Connor/PA
Kate Bingham, the head of the UK Vaccine taskforce, takes part in a vaccine trial at the Royal Free Hospital, north London - Kirsty O'Connor/PA
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A coronavirus vaccine is likely to have been given to every person over 50 who needs one by Easter, the head of the UK Vaccine taskforce has claimed.

The private comments by Kate Bingham emerged after Boris Johnson urged the public to stay "optimistic" about scientific breakthroughs as the country returns to lockdown.

Speaking to a US-hosted investors' forum, Ms Bingham said a dress rehearsal for rolling out a vaccine was scheduled to have completed on Saturday.

"It's been quick and it’s been efficient," she said. "This has definitely exceeded my expectations of what was possible."

However, she also reportedly showed official documents suggesting that up to 40 per cent of adults will not take a vaccine and that 15 per cent of doses are likely to be wasted due to errors in storage, shipping and handling.

The Government has placed provisional orders with several vaccine candidates to ensure quick access if and when one or more is signed off as safe and effective.

To get to this stage, scientists and regulators have to examine data from completed Phase Three trials, done by assessing the extent to which people given the drug and sent back to live in the community fall ill with coronavirus compared to those given a placebo.

How close are we to a Covid vaccine?
How close are we to a Covid vaccine?

At least two candidates, including the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, are currently in Phase Three, with experts hoping the data from the Oxford trial will be available in December.

On Sunday, one of the most senior scientists on the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), Sir Jeremy Farrar, said he believed "more than one" vaccine will prove to be useful and that results should be available before the New Year.

"They may not be perfect, we've become used to perfect vaccines, but generally these first wave of vaccines are not perfect but they're safe and they are effective and they will change the nature of the pandemic," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

Ms Bingham faced calls to resign after it was reported by The Sunday Times that documents she shared at the virtual investor meeting, organised by the Falk Marques Group in Massachusetts, were classified "official sensitive".

A spokesman for the Department for Business said: "Kate Bingham's work… includes close discussion with a wide range of companies. She and the Government regularly keep industry, the media and the wider public updated on progress towards the Covid vaccine."

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