So if the Oxford vaccine fails to deliver quickly, Britain could be left with a far higher bill for a mass vaccination programme than it was expecting.
The fact the Government placed an order for 100 million doses from AstraZeneca compared to 40 million for Pfizer shows where its loyalties lie.
And now that it’s clear the Pfizer drug needs two jabs, the Government order has essentially been cut in half, meaning just a third of the population could be vaccinated, way too few for herd immunity.
The Oxford jab is cheaper because it relies on traditional methods of vaccine production. In this case, the spike protein of coronavirus, which helps it attach to human cells, has been inserted into a common cold virus.
Once in the body, the immune system spots the new invader and produces t-cells and antibodies that will kick into action should the real virus turn up.
In contrast, the Pfizer vaccine is a ‘messenger RNA’ vaccine which sends a piece of genetic code into cells instructing them to make the spike protein themselves. No vaccine has ever been successfully created in this way before, so it carries the expense of novelty.