Covid vaccine will be in UK within hours, says Jonathan Van-Tam

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Englands deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam confirmed the UK will receive the vaccine “very shortly”, adding that he means “hours, not days”.

The deputy chief medical officer was speaking about the temperature issue in relation to the Pfizer vaccine, telling the BBC: “Now, there is a technical issue related to the Pfizer vaccine that we currently expect to receive very, very shortly in the UK, and I do mean hours, not days.”

He said it must be held at minus 70C, and, once it comes out to defrost, it has to be stored at 2C to 8C.

Professor Van-Tam said it is too early to say when the vaccine will enable coronavirus restrictions to be eased.

“If we can get to the point where the NHS is managing in a much more normal way than at present, then that gives politicians the option to think about what can be done next to make life more normal for us,” the deputy chief medical officer told BBC Breakfast.

“It’s not my job to give you a magic number here or a magic calendar date because so much depends on how quickly the vaccine programme is rolled out, whether the people called forwards for the vaccine accept it.

“If we can get to the point where we are confident that these vaccines not only take out the illness but take out the asymptomatic infections sufficiently to stop people spreading the virus when they don’t know they have got it, that becomes a big game-changer and a big win.

“If we can get to the science that shows this is happening, that shows we have got vaccines that are really punching above their weight and that makes it more likely we can bring restrictions down faster than in any other way.”

Professor Van-Tam said he does not expect other regulators, particularly the US regulator, to be very far behind in also approving the vaccine.

“I think this will all be solved in a matter of days, in the sense that I think other regulators are very close behind,” the deputy chief medical officer told BBC Breakfast.

He said there is no indication that there will be any difficulty in giving the vaccine to people with chronic underlying conditions.

Asked about pregnant women, he said none of the trials deliberately included pregnant women, but there were women who volunteered for the trial who then became pregnant.

He said the manufacturers will follow these women and their babies in their early years, adding: “So, from that perspective, this is covered. But, right now, do we have the data in pregnant women to understand the use of any of these vaccines in pregnant women? No, we don’t.

“Does the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) suggest that pregnant women should be vaccinated? No, it does not, and that isn’t a sign that the JCVI, or me, have seen some terrible problem.

“It’s a definite sign that we don’t have the data at this point and therefore, safety first, always being cautious, even though there may well be no problem at all.

“Nevertheless, always safety first.”

Professor Van-Tam has spoken about his fondness for metaphors after gaining a reputation for using them in recent press conferences.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I love metaphors. I think they bring complex stories to life for people. It’s great.”

Prof Van-Tam was asked why the UK is the first to approve the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, and said: “We are the first to approve it because we’ve been really, really organised about this from the word go.

“I started focusing behind the scenes on getting vaccines and vaccine preparedness back in March – actually quite a bit before the vaccine taskforce, which has been absolutely brilliant, was formed.”

He added: “This began with conversations with Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government chief scientific adviser, and from the word go we’ve been on the front foot, being clear that we needed vaccines as soon as was safely and assuredly possible.

“And the MHRA, our regulator, has just been superb in this space and taken unprecedented steps to see data early, and that’s why we are where we are.”

He also said the manufacturers have “moved at real pace”.



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