The rollout of a coronavirus vaccine could start in just 21 days – and mean grandparents are able to huge their family at Christmas.
The NHS is gearing up for a major inoculation programme, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed today.
The first needles could be ready by December 1 to “inject hope into millions of arms this winter”, he told MPs.
Inoculations will first be available to care home residents and workers, followed by NHS and care staff and those aged 80 and over – potentially allowing the elderly to cuddle their grandkids over the festive period.
Each person vaccinated needs two shots of the Pfizer and Biontech jab.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is examining the effectiveness of the injection.
Its findings could allow care home residents to safely receive visitors – reuniting families at Christmas.
The watchdog’s guidance will have an immediate bearing on how those vaccinated can behave if it is approved for rollout in December.
A senior source told the Mirror: “It is certainly something that our expert review will look at in terms of speed of onset and duration of the immune response.”
Another source warned that allowing behaviour change in time for Christmas will be tight as immunity only develops 14 days after the second dose is administered.
The clinical trial involved 44,000 volunteers in the US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey.
Among them was Glenn Deshields, a lobbyist from Austin, Texas, who compared the side effects of the jab to having “a severe hangover”.
The 44-year-old was “very excited” by the trial’s results, adding: “My grandfather, one of his first memories was of the bells ringing when World War I ended.
“It was a horrific war and horrible things happened and people were just happy it was over with.
“In my mind I felt the same way… I kind of felt it was something like that.
“Thank God, it’s going to be over at some point.”
Half of participants were given the vaccine and half a placebo – a harmless fluid which will have no effect.
Full clinical trial results on the 22,000 vaccine recipients to be announced in the last week of November could confirm previous results showing it produces no significant side effects.
The trial is double blind, which means the participants do not know if they are receiving the vaccine or a placebo.
Carrie, 45, from Missouri, said signing up was a “civic duty” and she was “very proud” of the results.
She said. “There are so many people who have had it and suffered.
“The thought that we could do something to stop people from suffering from this, from losing family members, that we could get rid of it and get back to some sort of normal in our lives – that’s a driving factor for this for me.
“I don’t want anyone else to be sick.”
Carrie, who works in publishing, received her first shot back in September and her second last month.
She believed she was given the vaccine after suffering mild side effects – a headache, fever and aches over her body – similar to the flu jab.
Bryan, an engineer from Rome, Georgia, felt “a little bit of pride” on hearing the news.
The 42-year-old said: “It was the least I could do to help out.”
Bryan believes he was given the placebo – he felt no immune response and, having received his two shots, came down with Covid shortly after his daughter caught it last month.
His whole family ultimately caught it but all have recovered.
The UK has bought 40 million doses of the Pfizer/Biontech jab.
Clinics are expected to operate seven days a week.
Mr Hancock told the Commons: “The deployment of the vaccine will involve working long days and weekends, and it comes on top of all the NHS has already done for us this year, and I want to thank in advance my NHS colleagues for the work that this will entail.
“I know that they will rise to this challenge of being ready when the science comes good to inject hope into millions of arms this winter.”
Confirming the military maybe involved in the vaccine rollout, he added:
“The logistics are complex, the uncertainties are real and the scale of the job is vast, but I know that the NHS, brilliantly assisted by the Armed Services, will be up to the task.”
Experts have warned of technical difficulties delivering the jab, which must be stored at minus 70C until a few hours before it is injected.
Temperature limits “will only add to the complexity around transportation and storage logistics with specialist storage needed”, warned Cranfield University’s professor of supply chain strategy, Richard Wilding.
He said: “The specialist infrastructure and storage equipment will become a supply chain in its own right with its own manufacturing and distribution processes attached to it.
“Stresses on this supply chain will then impact on how much vaccine you can move.”
The rollout of the programme is “likely to be one of the biggest logistical challenges we have faced this century”, he believed.