Britain expects to start rolling out the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine just before Christmas if it is declared safe and effective, health minister Matt Hancock said on Monday.
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“We’re working very closely with the company,” he told BBC TV. “We’ll be ready to roll it out as soon as it comes, we’ll be ready from the first of December..., but more likely is that we may be able to start rolling it out before Christmas.”
Asked how many vaccines Britain would need, he said it depended on how effective they were at preventing transmission.
Forty million doses
On Monday Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman announced the government expects to have 10 million doses of the vaccine available by the end of the year if regulators approve it.
The spokesman said that Britain had now ordered 40 million doses of the candidate vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, one of six that the government has agreed supply deals for.
“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.
Cold temperature needed
The vaccine’s complex and super-cold storage requirements are an obstacle for hospitals and may impact when and where it is available.
The main issue is that the vaccine, which is based on a novel technology that uses synthetic mRNA to activate the immune system against the virus, needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 F) or below.
“The cold chain is going to be one of the most challenging aspects of delivery of this vaccination,” said Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, discussing the challenges rolling out the vaccine in the US.